When you're the greatest instrumental band in the history of rock 'n' roll, how do you up the ante in concert? You add a celebrated singer whom you backed in the recording studio on his hits.
Booker T & the MGs with special guest Eddie Floyd at the sold-out Dakota Jazz Club Tuesday night was a match made in 1960s R&B heaven. Their opening 80-minute set joyously blasted baby boomers back to junior and senior high school dances: Floyd banging out "Knock on Wood" and Booker and the boys grooving to "Green Onions."
While Floyd, 75, was a high-energy, crowd-pleasing, bring-the-women-(including a 27-year-old)-onstage-to-dance-with-me showman, his voice wasn't as forceful and precise as it was in 2008 when he joined the MGs at the Dakota (where they perform again Wednesday night). The R&B shouter's 23 minutes onstage Tuesday were long on his jiving and the band vamping, though Booker T. Jones' B-3 organ really made "634-5789" swing. (The Wilson Pickett hit was written by Floyd and MGs guitarist Steve Cropper; moreover, the MGs were the house band on hits for Floyd, Otis Redding, and others at Memphis' Stax Records.)
By contrast, the opening 55 minutes of instrumental music by Booker T & the MGs was often magical. They sometimes reshaped their 1960s material into deeply soulful conversations between Jones' organ and Cropper's guitar.
"Green Onions" started on a low flame, with a slow jazzy exchange between Jones and Donald (Duck) Dunn's bass. Then Cropper chimed in on guitar before drummer Steve Potts counted off a faster tempo and the full quartet started cookin' southern style.
Another highlight was Gershwin's "Summertime," which started slow and moody, with the organ as lead instrument. Then Cropper offered a sad, bluesy response before Jones answered with fluttery vibrato, which sparked Cropper to a pleading, Hendrix-evoking blues, to which Jones retorted with swirling intensity. Now that's summertime southern soul music.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719