LIVE: Bobby Harden & Soul Purpose @ The Falcon, 1/19/18
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
Bobby Harden is not a household name, but he should be. He tours the world with his other band the Original Blues Brothers Band, fronting, along with Rob Paparozzi and Tommy “Pipes” McConnell, the band that includes original members Blue Lou Marini and Colonel Steve Cropper (and when we saw them, Tom “Bones” Malone). This night at The Falcon in Marlboro, he was with his own band, Soul Purpose, and he brought the house down with a voice dripping with SOUL.
Fittingly, although there was no warm-up act, owner Tony Falco decided to get the audience in the mood with clips of some famous musical scenes from “The Blues Brothers” movie. It was a fun, nostalgic romp, with Aretha, John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles, along with the usual suspects “dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants.”
Harden hit the stage with an extremely tight, seven-piece band. As with most R&B bands, a crisp horn section is a must, and if you closed your eyes, you would swear it was on player. Nippertown natives Cliff Lyons (sax) and John Hines (trumpet) were near perfection on their accent fills as well as their solos. Holding down the rhythm and keeping the funk were Richie Gonzales on drums and Gene Torres on bass. Adding the growl on the B3 was Rob Thompson, who also doubled on the concert grand piano. Lead guitar duties fell to the fabulous Herbie Maitlandt. Each of the back-up singers also got a turn in the spot light with Joyce Stovall doing Etta James’ “At Last” and Carole Sylvan with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” And, wow, did they shine.
The evening flew by as Harden hit songs from his two albums, Soul Purpose and River of Soul. He even threw in a nod to his alter ego as a Blues Brother with “Flip Flop Fly” and “Soul Man.” Harden is a consummate entertainer, and his huge smile and earnestness make it easy to let yourself go and join in on the fun that he is obviously having. Whether standing in the middle of the stage, or in front of it, or running through the audience beckoning them to stand up and dance, you can’t take your eyes off him. Despite being sick in bed the day before, there were no signs of illness as he gave everything he had in his performance. I am looking forward to seeing him again, and his show is perfectly suited to the listening environment that The Falcon provides.