Bassist Mike Gordon returned to Minneapolis on Sunday night. Gordon, best known for his work as a member of rock/jam legends Phish, brought his exceptionally talented band to the Varsity for two dynamic and diverse sets. The end result was a thrilling event that showcased the band’s great taste alongside their considerable chops.
On this tour, Gordon was joined by Scott Murawski (guitar), Craig Myers (percussion), John Kimock (Drums), and Robert Walter (organ/keys). Each has a deep body of work, and each brought their own flavor to the proceedings.
Set one featured a typically eclectic mix of styles and approaches but spent a lot of time in the funk and rock spaces with which fans of Gordon and his projects are familiar. Opening number “Whirlwind,” featured on Gordon’s Most recent album OGOGO, saw the band find an easy groove before picking up the pace over the back half of the jam.
In large part because of the funk and rhythms brought by the band, the first set would have many more highlights. Though they didn’t take many flashy solos, Myers and Kimock very much anchored the band, even as others took their turns in the spotlight. Their dynamic playing took “Put Down the Phone” and the electronic-tinged “Go Away” to the next level.
Walter’s versatility was on full display as well. Whether he was playing organ, keys, or synth, everything was handled tastefully and dexterously.
Set two differed from set one in a few key ways. Though it retained the funk of set one, the band seemed to step out further in their improvisation, especially early in the set. A massive “Peel” was a journey of sorts, seeing the band move through multiple sections of beautiful improvisation. While some of the jam verged on ambient, it was engaging throughout.
Following “Peel,” the band delved into two monster covers that would serve as centerpieces of the set. The first, Jon Cleary’s “Got to be More Careful” brought a slice of authentic New Orleans funk, while Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch,” a fan favorite, delivered a harder-rocking taste of Chicago. The combination was an excellent choice, and the execution was fantastic.
The second set closed with a final cover, Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.” It was an out of the box choice in some respects, but the band infused it with the energy and spirit the song demands. They put their own funky spin on things, and the crowd responded enthusiastically, as they had been doing all night long.