REVIEW: G. Love & Special Sauce at Turner Hall Ballroom
On Jan. 11th G. Love & Special Sauce made a modest return back to Milwaukee and visited Turner Hall for what would be an excellent romp through their discography. If you aren’t familiar with the G. Love & Special Sauce let me give you a little rundown of what they are all about because it’s not easy to pin down. Coming out of Philadelphia the band is a bit of an amalgamation of funk, soul, blues and hip hop and I don’t really think that covers their sound. Their sound is laid back and never yielding in the amount of talent they display with face melting blues solos, intense drum breaks that could easily go on for a few more minutes and down-right bone-shaking bass riffs piping out from a stand-up base. Without further ado, this is how they presented themselves on stage.
Modestly walking out and high fiving people in the slightly packed front row, G. Love made his way to his position and gave Milwaukee a great big welcome. Which if you don’t know, I really like when bands do that. It’s just the easiest way to relate to a city, but more on that later. Without much fuss, the band kicked into full gear and began playing “Dreaming”. With a crowd the size of last night I was pleased to see a great number of people leave their comfy cabaret tables and flood the stage. From then on the show began an unrelenting night of great music, tasty jams and a whole lot of Milwaukee love.
G. Love graced Milwaukee with his presence a number of times over the years and actually made a really enjoyable freestyle about all the things he loved from getting custom hats at the Brass Rooster to eating at Mader’s to praising the Bucks on how kick ass they are. He even said the Bucks have always been good, bless his soul. Even though there were a few years we don’t really talk about. That was just the prelude for his song “Shooting Hoops” in which he sings about playing basketball in the park, smoking spliffs, and reminiscing over the greats like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. From that point on the crowd was completely absorbed into everything the show had to offer.
Switching between his Les Paul, excellent free styling abilities and his harmonica breakdowns G. Love & Special Sauce had a tremendous amount of music to share. Although they saved most of their bigger hits for the end that didn’t stop the crowd from loving every minute. As much as I really love listening to this eclectic style of music there is something that you just can’t predict, and that’s how weird the crowd is. I’m there to support the band and no matter how small or large I will never be yelling to the band as to what songs to play next. Thankfully G. Love is a damn good sport and played some requests drunk guests shouted at him. I just thought it was a bit classless in at a show like that.
After about 8 songs the band left the stage to grab a cold beverage or smoke a joint or just take a break since they are getting a bit older. But upon return, we were treated to a second set of music starting out exclusively from G.Love himself and his acoustic guitar. It was a welcome treat that I wasn’t expecting. He opened with “Hanging Around”, and just like that the crowd was moving and grooving to the soothing sounds again. He then did a few new songs he’s been toying with some annoying crowd participation again. But after a few more songs of just G. Love he invited his band back and this time with a special guest Ron Ortiz. The rest of the show was a fantastic blues jam session that was an absolute treat to end the set on. Though some crowd had dissipated at that point it didn’t stop those that stuck around from jamming the whole time with the band.
G. Love & Special Sauce are a unique band. One of those band that never really saw high mainstream popularity but amassed a following over the last 25 years that hopefully will never go away. I’d love to travel someday to Hawaii and go to a bar and see G. Love in his natural habitat, but I definitely think rocking out in Turner Hall will suffice that need till then.
As a bonus, thanks to Paul Henning (@BrewCityPaul) on Twitter for this awesome photo of the set list: