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Turkuaz and Neal Francis get funky at the Fine Line

Turkuaz
Photo: Nick Langlois

Two of the funkiest acts around, Turkuaz and Neal Francis, played the Fine Line Saturday Night.

They each brought their distinct vision to the show, although they were united by a combination of reverence for funk’s past and offering a glimpse into the genre’s future.

Neal Francis and his band’s sound drew heavily from the golden age of New Orleans funk. Though it isn’t uncommon for bands to try and channel the greats of 1960’s and 70’s New Orleans, few do it as reverently (and successfully) as keyboard/organ wizard Neal Francis.

His album Changes was one of 2019’s best for lovers of vintage soul, melding the aforementioned crescent city funk with other blues, funk, and soul sounds (including some from his hometown of Chicago). It’s a sound both familiar and refreshing, making it an excellent antidote to the Twin Cities Midwinter Blues.

Francis and his band were excellent in a live setting. Though he isn’t as distinctive a vocalist as some, Francis sang with passion and conviction, delivering convincing performances of his well-written songs.

Francis’s playing was crucial to the set. He was as comfortable on clav as he was on organ, and his playing (as well as his band’s) had a depth that made for an exceptional performance.

Turkuaz’s approach was less rooted in a specific era of music than Francis’ but retained a deeply funky spirit.

Their nine-piece (!) band featured singers, a horn section, synthesizers, multiple guitarists and more. Their biggest strength was how they remained tight throughout the set and easily navigated their complex arrangements. They exuded great energy as they weaved through many strands of classic and modern funk.

One key to their success is their vocal work. Four of the nine members sang regularly, and they were all solid.

This isn’t always the case in the funk and jam scenes, scenes that are sometimes more known for instrumental chops than vocal prowess. Of course, having top-shelf technical skills is a major plus, and it was clear from the beginning that each member of Turkuaz possessed those as well.

Their combination of vocal and instrumental talent was infectious, as was their energy. Their bright, accessible, and danceable sound made for an impressive show that was above all lots of fun. If there was ever doubt about the future of funk, these acts laid it to rest.

Written by Aaron Williams

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