Larry Graham danced through the packed crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club on Monday night, thumping and plunking that bass guitar. He eventually started singing “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again),” from his days with the band that made him famous, Sly & the Family Stone.
But after demonstrating his funk prowess, Graham eased into “We’ve Been Waiting, “ the first tune on the 1973 debut album of his own band, Graham Central Station.
“We’ve been waiting for so long/ Waiting to play for you some of our songs” the tune begins a cappella.
Tell us about it. Graham has been living in Chanhassen for 15 winters, as he put it. Yet, his two-night, four-show gig at the Dakota is his first club gig in the Twin Cities – and he played only one other headline performance here, in 2010 at the Minnesota Zoo.
For 110 minutes, Graham, 66, and his current incarnation of Graham Central Station provided an unrelentingly funky good time. OK, there was one break from the unstoppable funkiness, that being his smash 1980 ballad “One in a Million.”
That was a timeless piece of romantic mush but the song title could also describe Graham. He is a pioneering rock ‘n’ soul bassist and he put on a clinic in Monday’s late show. Thunderous funk, blues funk, fuzz-tone funk, noisy funk, fast funk, walking bass, on and on.
A less than prolific recording artist, Graham played a couple of pieces from his 2012 album, “Raise Up,” his first album of new material since 1998. The title track was spiritual funk, and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” was another funky roof-raiser.
The group, whose other five musicians are based in Graham’s hometown of Oakland, also covered Ann Peebles’ soul standard “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” with Ashling “Biscuit” Cole handling lead vocals. In the 1990s, Graham had the horn section of Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson, his former Sly & the Family Stone colleagues, with GCS but no longer, which was too bad because the horn parts were played on synthesizer at the Dakota.
Still, when it came time for the Sly Stone medley, no one was complaining. In fact, everyone was up dancing for the 20-minute cruise through “Family Affair,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Everyday People” and “Dance to the Music,” with, of course, Graham singing in his famously deep voice ("I'm gonna add some bottom/So that the dancers just won't hide"). The only way to follow that was the encore of Sly’s “I Want To Take You Higher.”
(Prince, who calls Graham his friend, mentor and neighbor, was in the house but did not join him onstage.)
Now that Graham – who performs again at 7 and 9 p.m. Tuesday – finally got a taste of Twin Cities club life, let’s hope he’s no longer such a stranger in his current hometown.