Concert Review: Maceo Parker, Feb. 10, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Toronto – Early on in his set, Maceo Parker took it upon himself to set the record straight for the audience: “We do not play jazz … don’t get me wrong, I love jazz – it’s good for when you’re reading a book or washing your car.”  He then went on to play a pretty spot-on approximation of the sort of music they do not play before launching into another lengthy funk number with his band.  In an interview with The National Post, Maceo referred to his show as “2% jazz, 98% funky stuff.”  The distinction is important, I suppose, although  both forms of music celebrate virtuosity and are heavy on soloing, and Maceo Parker has been known to perform at jazz festivals, so there is also some common ground.

Speaking of virtuosity and soloing, Parker and his band played quite a long set, giving them roughly two and a half hours to show off their chops.  Pretty much every member of the band had their moments in the spotlight .  One of the highlights was a guitar solo that (to my ears, at least) bore some similarity to the theme from “Knight Rider.”   Also impressive was the drummer, Maceo’s nephew and son of his brother (and fellow James Brown alumnus) Melvin.  Maceo’s son is in the band too, contributing backing vocals (sample vocal line: “Funkety funk” – seriously, they actually sang that) and some lead vocal turns.  He was pretty good, but I’ve gotta say, he looked a little schlubby in comparison to the rest of the band.  Dude, everyone else is wearing suits – if you’re not gonna tuck your shirt in, at least wear a jacket or a vest. 

Seeing any performer of a certain age who does not come out of the rock band tradition, you realize what it is to see a real old school performer and entertainer.  Maceo Parker has been performing for over 40 years, and he probably learned a lot from his years touring with James Brown.  When not playing or singing, he did a bit of dancing around onstage and at one point ventured into the crowd and even sat down in an empty seat while still playing.  He also busted out a couple bars of “O Canada” on the flute to play up to the crowd.  His interactions with the audience were probably rehearsed schtick, lines that he’s used at show after show, and he did go on a bit too long in telling the audience over and over again, “We. Love. You,” but while it could get a bit corny, it’s a welcome change from seeing some band of 20something hipsters trying to act cool onstage.  I’ll take Maceo over Nathan Williams any day. 

Posted on by Paul in Concerts