I've been successfully avoiding Terminal 5 for years. For a lot of New York City concert-goers, the venue is a necessary evil. They book some of the best shows in the city (My Morning Jacket and LCD Soundsystem both recently did multiple runs there) but everyone complains about it being overcrowded with bad sightlines and overpriced everything.
It took a Medeski Martin & Wood/Antibalas Halloween double bill to finally get me through the venue's doors. It may have helped that Snowtoberapocolypse had kept the place from getting too crowded, but I am glad that I got over my Terminal 5-ophobia because it was a really smoking show.
I got out of the storm and into the club about half way through Antibalas' set. I have a lot of love for these guys and they sounded as great as ever on the big stage. I will say if you have seen Antibalas once, you have seen them a hundred times but it was a fun, funky set. People were still trickling into the show at that point so there was plenty of room to dance and mill about. Plus everywhere you turn in Terminal 5 is another bar so I was happy.
MMW's solo set was next and in honor of their 20th anniversary it was made up entirely of fan requests. This meant the focus was mostly on older material, particularly from early albums Shack Man and Friday Afternoon in the Universe. No complaints there since it meant getting treated to classics like "Jelly Belly," "Night Marchers" and "Chubb Sub" (no I don't actually know the names of all their songs, I had to look them up like a normal person).
The band was on fire from start to finish. It was some of the best MMW I have seen in years and I've seen a lot. Predictably the set closed with fan favorite "Bubblehouse," which got the crowd as rowdy as they'd get all night.
After another short break and a few more cocktails it was time for the collaborative set which was basically a mix of Afrobeat and MMW's brand of dark funk. MMW originals like "Uninvisible," "Dracula" and the percussion heavy "Retirement Song" all sounded amazing with the horns behind them (particularly "Dracula" - watch the video here). A cover of Fela Kuti's "Edbe Mi O," which has been in the MMW rotation for years, was some of the better Afrobeat of the night.
Despite the fact that 20+ musicians were on stage at the same time, nobody seemed to step on anyone's toes. The addition of horns, guitars and extra percussion to the already powerful MMW sound really blew me away.
The set closed the same way it opened - with the familiar horn lines of "Uninvisible." The encore was a long, rambling version of the Antibalas original "Inditement" which got a little too political and repetitive for my taste. At that point it was hard to find the energy to keep up with the music, which is always the trick with Afrobeat.
MMW is clearly a band that is all about experimentation and I am happy to say that this one worked. I am really looking forward to hearing a copy of this show (hint, hint).
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