Whoever came up with the expression, ‘blew the roof off the joint,’ must have just experienced a Tower of Power concert. Obviously not a literal interpretation, the Smart Araneta Coliseum still has the Big Dome intact, however, the band’s famous five-piece horn section had the audience take notice from the first coordinated blast.With an uncanny vitality, they amazed the Manila crowd with their signature sound, non-stop in-your-face energy and lively stage presence that could make a statue sway to the beat. And it’s not just the horns that set you back with force but the ability for such a large assembly to play as one cohesive unit. Throw in various ripping guitar licks, perfectly matched keyboards, soulful vocals with a bass guitar and drums that maintain a perfect rhythm throughout the show and you have a wonderful live performance that is rarely matched.The legendary ten-piece band hailing from Oakland CA was founded in the late 60’s now on tour celebrating their 50th anniversary. As you would expect from a band that’s been around for so long, they’ve seen changes in the line-up throughout the years. As evident in their recent album, their soulful R&B remains essentially unchanged even after decades. Perhaps due to the fact that two of the original saxophonists, Stephen “Funky Doctor” Kupka, and Emilio Castillo along with the original drummer David Garibaldi still write and perform with the group as they have from day one.As the bandleader, Emilio is on tenor and alto saxophones along with backing and occasionally lead vocals. Marcus Scott on lead vocals then rounding out the group are Tom Politzer on saxophone, Jerry Cortez on guitar, Roger Smith on keyboards, Sal Cracchiolo and Adolfo Acosta on trumpet, and Marc Van Wageningen on bass.It was not the first time the band had performed here, “The last time we played here was in 1974,” Emilio continued, “There’s one thing I know about the Filipino people they got good musical ears, they got a whole latta soul!”
Marcus Scott on lead vocals is the newest member of the band and had some big shoes to fill with the passing of their lead singer about a year ago. Often when a group replaces a lead vocalist for whatever reason, it’s just never quite the same. Tower of Power leans more towards the description of a legendary institution so they can pull it off and have had to on a few different occasions throughout the years.To my delight, Marcus appears to embody the soulful sound of the music itself, actually breathing new life into it. With a soaring vocal prowess, he manages to stay on top of the powerful horn section. The band’s latest album, “The Soul Side of Town” is certainly proof that their music is current and as fresh as their decades-old hit songs. Amazing that the band comes out sounding just as good, if not better than before regardless of the various line-ups.
Also performing for the evening were special guests Dennis Lambert and Kalapana. The latter consisting of seven performers bringing a soft rock sound from Hawaii. They were led by Malani Bilyeuand, and of course they performed their well known hit, “The Hurt,” sung by one of the members on acoustic guitar who happens to be Bruno Mars’ uncle, John Bayot.
You may not be familiar with Brooklyn-born Dennis Lambert but you’ll certainly recognize many of his songs. He’s a singer/songwriter/producer/composer and he performed his hits “Ashes to Ashes” and “Of All The Things”. He has extensively written songs for other artists over the decades, anything from the Four Tops, “Ain’t No Women (Like the One I’ve Got) to country hits for Glenn Campbell and “We Built this City,’ by Starship. He jokingly told the story to the crowd of how the Starship track was voted as one of the worse songs of all time.
You may not be familiar with Brooklyn-born Dennis Lambert but you’ll certainly recognize many of his songs. He’s a singer/songwriter/producer/composer and he performed his hits “Ashes to Ashes” and “Of All The Things”. He has extensively written songs for other artists over the decades, anything from the Four Tops, “Ain’t No Women (Like the One I’ve Got) to country hits for Glenn Campbell and “We Built this City,’ by Starship. He jokingly told the story to the crowd of how the Starship track was voted as one of the worse songs of all time.That’s certainly debatable. He performed a rearranged version of it for the Manila crowd and it certainly was something special. The stories he told in-between the tracks were just as entertaining, certainly just as insightful as the songs themselves. After all, I suppose a singer/songwriter is essentially a storyteller at heart.
The crowd included young faces although with a majority of the attendees in the category of 70’s soul disciples from the peace-and-love era. Marcus dressed in the appropriated garb for their genre, came down from the stage and into the crowd on a couple of occasions to the delight of the fans.
Staging and lighting effects were at a minimum level, which basically had no effect on the concert anyway. They kicked off the show in typical fashion with “We Came To Play,” and ending with “Souled Out”. As you would expect they performed their hits, “What Is Hip,” “So Very Hard to Go,” “Time Will Tell,” and “You’re Still a Young Man,” while mixing in new songs like the “The Soul Side of Town”.
If you never heard any of their songs, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish the tracks that were written this year or ones from forty years ago. Die-hard fans were delighted when they performed a special request submitted in advance by the Ovation Production team. “Sparkling in the Sand” is not in the standard setlist for this tour. Emilio explained to the crowd they had been practicing it for the last couple of weeks and they love playing it now. A fantastic night of unique and unmistakable soul music. The band played with passion and delivered with a unique groove with a horn-driven sound and an impeccable vocal performance. An overall nuanced vitality not often seen in many young bands of today. An impressive display of musical precision that translates into something dynamic. A conglomeration of uber-talented artists, living legends if you will, all on the same wavelength made the event feel more like a force of nature than simply a concert.