The New Orleans band made the most of its unexpected headlining status, closing out the 2021 concert series with an upbeat exclamation point. The Local Spins review and photo gallery.
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It started early during Galactic’s set Sunday night at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, with a rendition of “Clap Your Hands.”
Whatever singer Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph demanded of fans, they gleefully complied – whether it was clapping, stomping their feet, standing up, waving their hands, making “some noise” or singing along to jubilant refrains.
After an impressive opening set by Cincinnati indie-rockers The Heavy Hours (who even rolled out a fun cover of 1970’s “Spirit in the Sky”), the New Orleans jam band with a funky backbone wasted little time delivering just what fans expected from a season- and weekend-ending show: an upbeat, party attitude.
Granted, it wasn’t the way Meijer Gardens drew things up – funk powerhouse Lettuce was supposed to headline the season’s final show until a band member tested positive for COVID – but The Big Easy’s veteran Galactic certainly did its part to make up for the unexpected change in the top billing.
As they put it, there was “something in the air” and fans embraced the festival-like atmosphere.
While the amphitheater crowd of about 1,000 (after 400 or so folks requested refunds when Lettuce canceled) was smaller than usual, those on hand clearly were there because they wanted to be there – many of them standing and dancing throughout the evening amid gorgeously ideal weather.
It also meant there was room to stretch out stress-free. And the band – saxophonist Ben Ellman, bassist Robert Mercurio, drummer Stanton Moore, guitarist Jeffrey Raines, keyboardist Richard Vogel, trumpeter Shamarr Allen and singer Joseph – was all about de-stressing, whether jamming out on lengthy instrumentals or reinventing classics such as The Pointer Sisters’ “Yes, We Can Can” and The Police’s “Walking on the Moon.”
HORN-INFUSED JAMS AFTER AN UP-AN-DOWN BUT SATISFYING SEASON
Joseph led the way, a vibrant and vivacious cheerleader who offered uplifting words to the audience while belting out dance-igniting gems and soulful ballads.
There was even the politically incisive “Something’s Wrong With This Picture” that not only issued a powerful message but uncorked horn-infused, butt-shaking funkiness that showed off Galactic at its best.
And while on the subject of horns, Ellman and Allen filled the amphitheater with such tasteful, adroit and exuberant solos it was impossible to not get caught up in the spirit of this summer-ending celebration.
“I’m so happy to be here and see all of your lovely faces,” Joseph gushed at one point. “I feel my crazy coming out.”
Speaking of crazy, the entire season wasn’t the way Meijer Gardens would normally have drawn things up: COVID forced organizers to start the summer series later than usual in mid-July, jamming more than two dozen shows into a two-month time frame (with a couple of cancellations and rescheduled concerts throwing a wrench into the works).
But give this popular venue and its promoter, Chris Mautz, credit for staying the course in spite of it all, offering West Michigan music fans an outdoor concert experience that was completely missing in summer 2020, with several standout performances for the memory books.
As John VanderHaagen, Meijer Gardens’ director of communications, so aptly put it: “What a crazy season this year.”
Crazy, indeed. And crazy good in many ways, too, with Galactic putting a final, funky and festive jam-band stamp on the summer of 2021.
PHOTO GALLERY: Galactic, The Heavy Hours at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus