Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venue: Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Tour: 50th Anniversary Tour 2018
Date: Thursday September 20th, 2018
Most band only last a few years before they either fade away or breakup. Great bands can last a decade or 2 before they breakup. But to last 50 years and still be producing new music and bringing the house down with their live shows is amazing. It has been 50 years since two young sax player, Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka from Oakland, California met and formed a band that would be known as Tower Of Power. They draw their music from a combination of jazz, funk, R&B and a whole lotta SOUL.
Over the past 50 years the band has had a number of members, but Emilio and Stephen have always been there. So, who are the current members of Tower Of Power? Emilio Castillo still plays sax, sings and is the leader of the band. Stephen “Doc” Kupka still plays baritone sax. They are joined by trumpet players Adolfo Acosta and Sal Cracchiolo. Tom E. Politzer, affectionally known as “Big Love” joins Emilio on sax. That rounds out the brass section of the band. They are backed up by keyboardist Roger Smith, guitarist Jerry Cortez, longtime drummer David Garibaldi and new comer on bass, Marc van Wageningen (Marc VW). Taking over the role of lead singer and front person is Marcus Scott.
You have to remember that Tower Of Power is primarily a brass section (trumpets and saxes) band, so those members take front and center stage. There are to members of the brass section that stand out. First is Emilio who plays sax, sings and generally leads the band. However, Tom “Big Love” Politzer really takes the spotlight when he moves to the front of the stage to perform his mini sax solos on a number of different songs. This is not to say that the non-brass section members of the band don’t play an important role. They provide the rhythm, beat and general continuity of the songs that the trumpets and saxes accent. Then there is Marcus. He has been a great addition to the band as lead singer and dynamic front man. He seems to interact very well with the audience. When they played their new song, “Stop”, he had the audience sing along shouting out “Stop It” during the song.
It would not be a Tower Of Power concert without hearing their greatest hits, “You’re Still A Young Man”, “We Can To Play”, “So Very Hard To Go” and of course “What Is Hip”. But tonight, we got to hear “Stop” and “On The Soul Side Of Town” from their new album, Soul Side Of Town.
From the very start they came out jamming with “We Came to Play”. On the third song, Marcus came out into the crowd and sang “You Ought To Be Having Fun”. One of the highlights of the show for me was when they played a tribute to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. It started out and ended with “Diggin’ on James Brown”, with some of James Brown songs intermixed. This is when Marcus showed his dynamic front man abilities performing a lot of the same shuffles and movements that James Brown would perform. They ended the set with 2 of their hit songs, “So Very Hard To GO” and the fan favorite, “What Is Hip”.
This was their last performance at the MIM. They did 4 total shows over 2 days. From what I heard from the ushers, the setlist was different for each show on the same day. Just the ability to perform 2 1.5 hour shows on the same night is amazing for any group, but to change the setlists just shows how truly great this band is. Also, after the last show, they came out and signed CD/Albums and even had photos taken with fans.
As for the MIM, you really need to see a show there. The MIM is perfectly designed for bands like Tower Of Power. The band had only stage monitors and it looked like everything was routed through the MIM’s outstanding sound system. I was positioned at stage right, stage left and at the back of the theatre and the sound was spectacular everywhere I stood. I could hear each of the trumpets and saxes include the baritone sax. Also, Marcus’s and Emilio’s voices were crystal clear. Also the view even at the back of the venue was great.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018, All Rights Reserved
Tower Of Power Setlist: (Album)
We Came to Play (We Came to Play!)
Soul With a Capital “S” (T.O.P.)
You Ought To Be Havin Fun (Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now)
Get Yo’ Feet Back on the Ground (Tower Of Power)
Stop (Soul Side Of Town)
You’re Still A Young Man (Bump City)
On The Soul Side of Town (Soul Side of Town)
James Brown Medley
Diggin’ on James Brown
So Very Hard to Go (Tower Of Power)
What Is Hip (Tower Of Power)
Knock Yourself Out (East Bay Grease)