photo courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2023
Perched on a barstool and bundled in a scarf over his usual tie die t-shirt, George Porter Jr., the legendary bassist from funk’s seminal band The Meters said he had only one complaint. “What’s going on with this cold weather? I come to California and expect to wear shorts.” The stubborn winter that is lingering in Los Angeles did not stop him and his stellar band the Runnin’ Pardners, from putting on a spellbinding show on March 7. The Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest vibe was evident all night at The Venice West, a club in Venice, CA that was packed with devoted fans anxious to stay warm by gyrating to Porter’s funky beats. The band did their job and then some.
Porter Jr., guitarist Chris Adkins, keyboardist Michael Lemmler and drummer Terrence Houston delivered an exhilarating night of classic New Orleans funk with a heavy dose of improvisational jamming. The two set show included the classics “Fiyo on the Bayou” and “Cissy Got The Blues” (a reworked version of “Cissy Strut.” “Hey Pocky A-Way” featured a mash up with Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles.” With a set of beads on the end of the neck of his instrument that were lovingly provided by a loyal audience member, Porter Jr. pounded out funky rhythms fortified by the syncopated, thundering beats of drummer Terrence Houston. Adkins and Lemmler traded imaginative solos all night. Instrumentals were mixed in with songs that Porter Jr. sang with his husky, distinctive voice augmented by fine Adkins and Lemmler harmonies.
In the second set, Porter Jr. introduced an intense song that comments on the sad state of the world called “Crying For Hope.” The title track from their 2021 album, it is the first the band had released in a decade. After that track, the band tossed out their set list and broke into a raucous version of Allen Toussaint’s “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley,” a song that The Meters recorded with Robert Palmer in 1974. Adkins delivered the rich, funky guitar riff and played a sweet slide solo. They went back to the deep Meters catalog for “What Cha Say” and “He Bite Me, The Dragon.” Those songs featured more throaty vocals from Porter Jr., wild guitar forays and a few Lemmler keyboard dazzlers.
The show wrapped up with Adkins randomly picking a song. He launched into a groovy riff that got Porter Jr. laughing as the band joined in for The Meters’ “Chicken Strut.” Porter Jr. clucked, sang, thumped his bass and grinned as that crazy ride transitioned into 2007s “I Get High,” featuring another brilliant Adkins slide solo. The grand finale was a segue into a fun, sing along version of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light.” The show ended, but the festive vibes continued as Porter Jr. and the other band members stepped off the stage to greet fans, exchange hugs and take photos.
George Porter Jr. is 75 and in his sixth decade of bringing the funk to adoring audiences. After seeing his Venice West performance, he shows few signs of slowing down. Porter Jr. has an ambitious list of gigs through 2023. Several are scheduled across the United States with the Runnin’ Pardners, Take Me To The River All Stars and other configurations, including April and May shows in New Orleans during Jazz Fest.
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