Written by Jim Bille
May 25, 2007 at 08:00 PM
ImageThe question, “What is Hip?” was answered Friday night at the Meridian when the Oakland, California based super soul and funk band Tower of Power took center stage for an almost two hour set. Horns ‘o’ plenty dominated the performance, laying down the grooves on some of the best R&B on the planet that kept the crowd funkatized and moving throughout the entire show.

Tower of Power has been a dominant force on the R&B scene ever since the band’s inception in 1968. After forty album releases and one more coming out this fall, these guys are still drawing a huge crowd, as was evident at Fridays close to sold out show. The place was packed.

The now legendary horn section has played back up for countless artists like Aerosmith, Ray Charles, Stevie Nicks, Santana, Lyle Lovett, Phish, Elton John, Eurhythmics, Rod Stewart, Huey Lewis and the News, Dionne Warwick and on and on. You name the artist, chances are Tower of Power has or will eventually back them up.

After numerous personnel changes over the years the band has restructured themselves with five veteran members still in place. Co-founder of the band, Doc Kupka, was a crowd favorite honking on his baritone sax while doing some occasional funky footwork during the set. Detroit transplant Emilio Castillo, co-founder as well, remains the definitive and consummate bandleader. His sax playing and fine vocals are two key ingredients in the Tower of Power sound. With the return of Bruce Conte on guitar last year along with Mr. ‘Fingerstyle Funk’ Rocco Prestia on bass and David Garibaldi on drums rounding out the rhythm section, Tower of Power still rolls out the best soul shaking tunes in the business.

With this core and the newer members Adolfo Acosta, Mike Bogart, Tom Politzer, Roger Smith and one of the best soul shouters around, Larry Braggs, Tower of Power tears up the music scene with sounds that Motown only wishes they could have had.

The band opened the set with ‘ We Came to Play’ from the album of the same name. Other songs covered from Tower of Power’s extensive catalog included ‘Can’t Stand to See the Slaughter’, ‘Only So Much Oil in the Ground’, ‘Don’t Change Horses’, ‘You’re Still a Young Man’, ‘Diggin on James Brown’, and of course the coolest version of ‘What is Hip’ ever to be heard.

You couldn’t wind up a tighter sound than Tower of Power. They cook through every note and boil over every song. The horns are mixed with a dash of guitar and rhythm that create a soul sound blue plate special that will keep you coming back for seconds and thirds.