Bill Champlin - guitar, keyboards, baritone sax, vocals; Terry Haggerty - guitar, vocals; Geoffrey Palmer - keyboards, alto sax, vibraphone; Dave Schallock - bass; James Preston - drums, percussion; Mark Isham - trumpet
Performing between ex-Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina's band, Copperhead, and the final incarnation of the original Quicksilver themselves, The Sons of Champlin deliver a set of their unique psychadelicized soul-funk. The band was promoting its fourth album, Welcome To The Dance, an album everyone believed would gain them the recognition that had eluded them through the years. Adding elements of soul and funk to their root sound built on a blend of rock, R&B, and jazz, the band was brimming with talent. The new songs were some of Bill Champlin's best compositions and the album contained their most accessible material to date. The Sons overt positive energy and life-affirming lyrics were a holdback to the '60s, but they did it with style well into the 1970s and always with great enthusiasm and musicianship.
The set kicks off with a tightly arranged instrumental that showcases the jazzier side of the band and features impressive sax work. After rectifying a bass drum problem on stage, they dive into "Lightnin'," one of the catchiest tracks from the new album. "Queen Of The Rain," a song from their self-titled fifth album comes next. This breezy number features Geoff Palmer on vibraphone, which is a pure delight. Palmer's talents are as integral to the Sons' sound as Champlin's baritone, Haggerty's jazz-influenced guitar chops or the horn section's wall of brass. "Smile Upon Our Face," a storytelling R&B flavored number, full of the upbeat good vibes that were always the bands trademark, follows this. Many of these songs celebrate life and are overly optimistic in retrospect, but that was always part of the band's charm. The Sons notch up the intensity level for the high-energy organ-dominated rocker, "Welcome To The Dance," ending the set on a celebratory note.
The audience wants more and the Sons oblige with an extended encore that will delight long time fans. The Loosen Up Naturally tracks "Freedom" and "Get High," both of which were originally arranged as a three-part interplay between alto and tenor saxes and trumpet, get a full-blown workout here. Palmer's keyboard work is exceptional and he and bass player Dave Shallock establish the initial groove. Shifting into a horn-driven jam, this builds momentum through the verses. Approximately six minutes in, the band eases into a vamp that lays the foundation for guitarist Terry Haggerty to take off. Throughout this show, Haggerty has remained tightly restrained, always adding tasty rhythmic elements and helping to propel the overall sound, but never truly cutting loose. Here we are finally treated to one of Haggerty's complex, blistering guitar runs, which raises this material to an astonishing level. When they return from this great jam and complete the song, they never stop, immediately segueing into another jam that features Champlin scat singing as the band improvises, eventually launching into "Get High." Once again Palmer takes to the vibraphone and the entire band plays with passion. This funky highly original rocker defines the original sound of the group and remains compelling decades later. The band's inclusion of a vibraphone was one of the aspects of the Sons which set them apart from horn bands like Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Tower of Power from the beginning. Nearly 20 minutes after it began, this remarkable encore comes to a close, setting the stage for a powerful set from Quicksilver Messenger Service.