Daddy Wrall tells me I absolutely have to write about our experience in New York last night. He often encourages me to write about what we are up to, and though I usually intend to do so, time and subsequent opportunities to, you know, do stuff, prevent me from sufficiently genuflectling. (Did I use genuflecting correctly? Remind me to look that up later.)
This experience, though, is worthy of struggling through a series ofiPhone keyboard typos and putting down on the digital page. You see*, last night, in celebration on Sammy Bananas’ birthday, we attended a concert by the immortal and unparalleled Larry Graham. First some house-keeping: sadly, Sam was unable to join us for his birthday celebration. He’s currently on tour in Europe, where we hope and trust he’s safe and happy and generating a fanbase for Telephoned of Beatlesesque (or at least Ahaesque) proportions.
*Larry is reknowned (at least in Miss Fairchild, you see) for copious and unwarranted use of “you see”. We love him for it, and sprinkle all imitations with this verbal tic.
Needless to say, having not been invited to Europe, we decided to spend ten hours on a bus to get as close as possible to one of heroes, Larry Graham and his band Graham Central Station. The show was at BB King’s in Times Square, which unfortunately has tables and all kinds of strangeness. There would be no mosh pits, and I don’t know what they made those tables from, but I can’t believe that music didn’t turn them right to splinters. It melted my face and fried my laptop, but those tables survived. Must be made from wooden asteroids or something.
On the bus down, there was a good amount speculation about what Larry would and would not play. We knew that he would have to play his biggest solo hit, “One in a Million You” and assumed that there would be at least one extended Sly & The Family Stone medley. During the show, I correctly predicted that “I Wanna Take You Higher” would close the night, not difficult to do if you were at Woodstock or have seen the film and know about Larry’s feelings about that concert.*
*In his instructional video, Larry Graham’s Funk Bass Attack, Larry humorously leads legendary drummer Greg Errico wig his questioning about “the best concert experience he had ever had. Greg initially names another show at the Fillmore (I think), but Larry says something like, what about Woodstock? Isn’t that the best show you’ve ever played?
In sum, though, Larry far exceeded our expectations about what he would play. The band marched into the audience from the back of the room, playing “Entrow” from the album Mirror. The crowd spontaneously began to chant, “G-C-S! The baddest group from East to West!” They continued with James Brown-worthy supertight transition into “We’ve Been Waiting” and from there to “Ain’t No Fun To Me”, the Al Green song that Larry sings on the first GCS album. He hit ever subtle moment that we’ve come to love, with exact replications of each melisma and ad-lib. The precision was incredible. We sang along like we have so many times listening to the record, except this time, instead of other folks looking at us like we’re crazy, they sang along too.
Before Larry had started I was in the restroom with a bunch of dudes from Paul Schaefer’s CBS band and we were all singing “Hair”, which, wouldn’t you know it, is the GCS son that Miss Fairchild plays once in a while. The dudes were older and bigger than me, and when I joined in, they laughed and were surprised I knew the song. Just another moment that represented the joy and wonder in that room last night.
While we were waking for the show, one member of our party made a comment about Prince showing up- trust me, we had discussed it, too- but spilled his drink when doing so calling over the waitress.
“You see those two huge bodyguards over there? Yeah, that’s Prince.”
Holy cow. Prince. Yeah, we’ve seen him before. Were closer to him, even. But he was onstage then. This was Prince, seated not twenty feet away, bobbing and dancing just like you hope he would.
He did get on stage and it was almost distracting. Larry played “The Jam” while Prince was backstage getting ready, and everyone knew the moment was coming. Larry ha to do some damage control while playing and he ne’er missed a note. Incredible poise. Incredible smile. Incredible energy. A spectacle. An inspiration. A hero.
So yeah, Prince came out and they played “Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin”. I actually preferred Greg Errico’s guest spot on (of course) “Dance To The Music”. His pocket is so different than the other drummer on the show.
Larry: thank you. Thank you. Thank you.