They’ve had to cancel some of their dates on this tour due to the Icelandic volcano and Mother Nature reminding us all who’s really in charge, but at least the man credited with inventing the slap bass technique has made it to London for the final date on his tour. They start by walking through the crowd from the top level balcony down to the stage in a funky procession of drums, handclaps and whistles. The whole band are dressed all in white (trousers, shirts, shoes and hats) with Larry Graham looking particularly natty in his wide brim stetson. He looks fit and full of vigour – not bad for a man who’s 64 years old this year, and for the whole gig I can’t help comparing how great he looks with how unwell Sly Stone looks (and anyone who’s been to see Sly Stone in the last few years peddling the travesty that he calls a show will know exactly what I mean).
Graham Central Station consists of a drummer, 2 keyboards, lead guitar, female vocalist (also playing percussion and triggering samples) and Mr. Larry Graham with a sleek looking bass complete with microphone attachment. It’s a great funky set from the off, with a rousing version of the Ann Peebles’ classic “I can’t stand the rain”. He was always one of my favourite bass players anyway and his pluckinq, strumming and slap bass techniques are masterful. Mark King from Level 42 did a lot towards making bass playing like this decidely uncool and unfunky, so it’s great that people like Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins are still around to reclaim the funk. 🙂
He does a great version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher ground”, laying down a deep bass line that perfectly complements the song. He then does a 15 minute bass solo accompanied by his drummer in which he leaves the stage, stands on a chair in the middle of the dancefloor, goes to the first and second balconies then returns to the stage all the time laying down funky, party time, block rocking BASS.
After about 90 minutes of great funk and showmanship, the band do an innovative encore where Mr. Graham got members of the audience to come on one at a time and solo with the band. It must have been pre-arranged because two really good guitarists took it in turn to lay down a funky solo, then a good keyboard player had a go, a sax and trombone player came on and stayed on for the rest of the show and one of the singers from UK jazz funk band Light of the world did a quick verse. A nice way to encore indeed!
At this point I thought the show was over, but then Larry Graham mentions that he used to play bass in ”another little band” which is enough to generate huge cheers and then we’re straight into another 45 minutes of Sly Stone songs too! It really was absolutely brilliant to hear ”Family Affair”, “Everyday People”, “Dance to the music” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”. Done a million times better than Sly managed on his abysmal UK tour a few years ago, Larry and his band perfectly captured the spirit of those classic songs. They end with an extended funk workout of Sly’s classic “I wanna take you higher” and Larry invites loads of people onto the stage to dance. It’s the perfect ending to a funk fuelled dance party by one of the masters in the game. Best gig I’ve been to so far this year and it clocked in at two and a quarter hours of non stop funk. If you EVER get the chance to see Graham Central Station then just GO!!!
And the upcoming Sly Stone documentary is a timely reminder of how great he used to be and just how far you can fall.