A thousand-odd people are here to see Vulfpeck, and the 02 ABC is almost buzzing. The atmosphere is tangible as the crowd waits for their favourite Michigan-based funk group to take the stage. The lights dim. Someone doing an impression of Hollywood’s favourite voice-over artist Redd Pepper takes a mic, booming each band member’s name as, one-by-one, Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Woody Goss and Joe Dart run onto the stage. The crowd goes wild.
No time is wasted here; Vulfpeck are jamming onstage, dancing in synchronisation like a groovy Take That and throwing improvisational solos at each other – it feels like a party. Everyone is carefree. They kick things off with Animal Spirits, a tune from their new album, The Beautiful Game, which gives the saxophonist a chance to blow the audience away with truly stunning wails throughout. The party atmosphere is fully cemented as the band make full use of the 02’s massive glitter ball hanging from the ceiling; the room is dazzling.
Four songs in, there is an announcement: Antwaun Stanley will be joining the stage. A helping hand in Vulfpeck’s surge to fame, he jogs on to deafening applause – can the audience really believe that they’re being treated to a live performance from Stanley in addition to this already marvellous spectacle? 1612 begins, and Stanley begins to interject this funky show with a well-suited spritz of soul. Immediately, you can see his natural stage presence, and looking over at the wide grins and twisting feet you can see the band are thrilled to be welcoming him into their show.
Throughout the performance the band continue to interject bits of fun and humour, mostly Katzman’s dancing and bits of chatter. More than once, the audience are taught harmonies and effectively used like a big, enthusiastic backing choir – albeit a slightly tipsy, tone-deaf one. At one point the entire room is singing All Star by Smash Mouth while Stratton plays Bill Withers on the drums.
It’s clear that these musicians are here only to have a good time and to make great music; not one aspect of egotism or hierarchy is present, and the room echoes with mutual respect and love of what everyone’s hearing. Sweat is flying off Dart – he hasn’t stopped dancing since the music started, and the lights behind him illuminate his ecstatic head-banging and hair-flipping for all to see in its mad glory. The music reverberating around the venue is a perfect execution of this funk and soul fusion.
This is one of the best live gigs Glasgow has seen in a long time, and as the crowd pour out of the 02’s doors, smiling faces fill Sauchiehall Street and the hum of excited chatter is almost deafening.
Although there’s no new material (officially) on the horizon, check out Vulfpeck on their Youtube channel,
Vulf (youtube.com/user/DJparadiddle), and on twitter at @Vulfpeck or at vulfpeck.com.