Word of mouth no doubt accounted for a palpable sense of anticipation in the air at Club Metronome, even when the audience was far more sparse than two hours into the show. Lettuce couldn't have gotten more of a collective rise out of an audience than when they took the stage upstairs from Nectar's May 8th.
And Lettuce were as caught up in their own music as the audience in front of them‚ bobbing and weaving to the music right from the first number‚ through most of the new album‚ Rage. The band's chemistry is obvious‚ yet it doesn't take the place of the craft in what they do. You've heard all this before (hopefully) -- Tower of Power‚ James Brown‚ Curtis Mayfield -- but chances are you've never heard it in one place before‚ in the form of well-wrought arrangements enlivened by savvy musicianship.
On this early weekend night‚ the sound of Lettuce was remarkably powerful‚ as the band also incorporated the urban feel of Philadelphia soul a la Gamble and Huff. The room contained the full-throttle bass lines of Erick Coomes -- Larry Graham would be proud! -- and there were but passing moments when the horn section of Sam Kininger/Ryan Zoidis/ Rashawn Ross blared.
The remainder of the time‚ those wind instruments blew strong and stately‚ not just ornamenting but also solidifying Lettuce's collective motivation to move their listeners. Little wonder the sporadic solos‚ most prominently by guitarist Eric Krasno‚ were so refreshing. And Adam Deitch sounded like two very muscular drummers playing in perfect tandem.
Not surprisingly‚ the crowd needed no encouragement to dance to the music‚ so the presence of vocalist Nigel hall interrupted the flow of the performance: He's neither a distinctive singer nor an engaging MC. The intensity dissipated‚ too‚ during the extended improvisation that occurred shortly after midnight. In contrast to the focused power of the ensemble prior to that point‚ Lettuce meandered.
More concentrated time together should refine the Lettuce approach along those lines as well as within their forte of ensemble playing. The band does indeed seem to be poised to persevere for the imminent future‚ and that's a good thing to be sure‚ given how infectious their enthusiasm for what they do is and how resoundingly they connect with the people who come to hear them.