Review: Tower of Power at Shepherds Bush Empire

Tower of Power, Shepherds Bush Empire, 18th November 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Tower of Power
(Shepherds Bush Empire, 18 November 2012; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

‘Nuclear explosion in Shepherds Bush’, the headline might have read. How could Tower of Power follow their amazing gig at Ronnie’s earlier this year? Well, they blew the roof off the Shepherds Bush Empire on Sunday with a total scorcher.

Not even listed as a LJF concert – on a night where the punter was spoilt for choice – due to the over-programming that besets the LJF – this had to be the one with the highest octane power drive in the city. From a standing start to speed of sound in seconds they adapted perfectly to the Empire’s faded baroque splendour and the excellent sound mix hooked every hook this sensational 10 piece delivered, on this, the final date of the European leg of their 45th anniversary tour.

The wickedly tight arrangements, the finely-honed discipline and sheer musicianship – they get it right every time. The Tower blasted through a mixture of Power favourites, but never gave short shrift to any of them – they sounded as though they just relished playing every note. They were not averse to slamming on the brakes and the slower-paced So Very Hard to Go was a stand out; their cover of Me and Mrs Jones was sheer classic soul.

Larry Braggs has grown in to the role of MC and rabble-rouser as well as the sweet-soul vocalist who has succeeded illustrious forbears, including Lenny Williams, and articulated the Tower’s personality down to a tee. Founder Emilio Castillo joined in on the front line, clearly really enjoying the energy he was getting back from the audience – new recruits and those who had followed them since their early days.

Tower of Power, Shepherds Bush Empire, 18th November 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Roger Smith was picked out for solo Hammond spots flecked with touches of Wild Bill Davis. Jerry Cortez’s guitar solos were concentrated, raw, honed to the max; Tom Politzer headed front stage to belt out tenor solos with an assurance and drive that leaves most in the dust – and the brass section work … well, there isn’t a brass section like it! Not to mention the rhythm section – drummer David Garibaldi has just been inducted in to the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, the industry’s highest honour and bassist Rocco Prestia set down the bass grooves that underpinned every nuance of the funk.

A sensational evening – they are one of the great bands.

Emilio Castillo – bandleader, 2nd tenor sax, vocals
Stephen “Doc” Kupka – baritone sax
Rocco Prestia – bass
David Garibaldi – drums
Larry Braggs – lead vocalist
Roger Smith – keyboards
Tom Politzer – lead tenor sax
Adolfo Acosta – trumpet
Jerry Cortez – guitar
Sal Cracchiolo – trumpet & trombone

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