Monday, December 18, 2006

The Color Me Funky European Tour 2006: Spreading the Gospel of The Funk - Part 1

The Color Me Funky European Tour featuring LMT Connection, Joel Parisien and Nadir was a non-stop rollercoaster ride with thrills, chills and even some spills. From October 24 to November 12, 2006, our troupe trapsed through Austria, Hungary, Germany and the Netherlands, spreading the gospel of The Funk to enthusiastic congregants at every stop.

As advertised, the musical pyrotechnics on stage were spectacular, but the real drama occured offstage - in the clubs, on the roads and in the mountains of the European Union.

The tour began well before October when Hubert Moser, the hardest working man in European show business, planned, booked and promoted the high wire act that was the Color Me Funky tour. When artists like Ivan Neville, Fishbone, The Ipanemas, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Azymuth travel to the Old World, they hire Moser as tour manager, chief navigator and head cheerleader. Moser's Miracle Dread Productions lives up to its billing as "the company for real music" by bringing the world's best musicians to European audiences. By the time we arrived at Munich airport, Wah-Wah Moser had everything tuned up and ready to hum like a well-oiled Mercedes Benz.

Everyone involved knew the tour would be something special, and the stage was set from the very first show. Opening night was a rocker in Mozart's hometown, beautiful Salzburg, Austria at Rockhouse, a unique concert venue built into the side of a mountain.

As the opening act I set the pace with 25-minutes of solo funk featuring burners like "Daddy's Cane", "Slave", "Guantanamo" and Funkadelic's "Good To Your Earhole". By the time I launched into the salacious groove of "Sanctified", the crowd was clapping, stomping, dancing and chanting, "So good it's sanctified!" Then it was time to call Canada's finest into action one at a time.

Joel Parisien is a bad man. The singer/songwriter plays keyboards, percussion, saxophone and a MEAN human beatbox. Ask "Soul Joel" what he doesn't do, and he claims that he is only an average guitar player, but I don't buy it. I bet he plays the hell out of a guitar.

His real gift is the voice. Joel's soulful phrasing and lyricism are uncomparable. Joel can "sang", children, like Sunday morning service right before the pastor preaches about Daniel in the lion's den. In later shows, Joel would join me on stage during my set to turn "Guantanamo" into a hymn of faith and redemption for guitar, voice and piano, and we'd really take it to church on "Sanctified" when Joel cranked up the organ. By then the crowd was hyped up and pre-warmed, ready for LMT Connection and...

...The Funky Bass. "Big Bad" John Irvine is a groove machine. The 4-string thumper from Ottawa is a master showman, and as a piano player and guitarist, John's grasp of composition and arrangement give him a truly creative approach to bottom first bass playing. John also uses various effects and chords to add different colors to LMT's funky flavors.

Next up to bat is the "Hard Hittin" Mark Rogers. The award-winning drummer/producer has been banging the skins since the age of eight, and has been recognized as one of Canada's best drummers for years.

Mark employs a pleathora of rhythms in LMT's sets moving from Motown to jazz, from latin to afrobeat, from rock to funk. Most drummers should pay attention to him if for nothing but the clinic he gives in how to create an interesting and entertaining drum solo.

Finally we call the legend to the stage. Detroit's own Leroy Emanuel has performed or recorded with Marvin Gaye, John Lee Hooker, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Bohannon, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, ZZ Hill and on various Motown sessions in the early 70's. He was a founder of the 70s Detroit funk outfit The Fabulous Counts who enjoy an underground cult following to this day.

Leroy is a funk guitar monster, a passionate singer and a great songwriter. He moved to Niagra Falls, Canada about 20 years ago and founded LMT Connection with Rogers and Irvine. The band has made a name for itself touring Canada and Europe for the last 17 years.

This was my second European tour with LMT, and both times were tremendous experiences - musically, educationally, spiritually. All of the shows were magical.

But when you're on the road, life offstage is the real adventure. From bus breakdowns in the Hungarian countryside to three-car pile-ups with the members of Fishbone in Austria... I'll discuss these tales and more in Part 2.

Photos courtesy of Rockhouse and Nadir. For more photos of the tour, please visit the photo gallery.


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