Rufus Miller - lead vocals
Francis Rocco Prestia - bass
Willie Fulton - guitar
Jay Spell - keyboards
David Garabaldi - drums
Emilio Castillo - tenor sax
Stephen "Doc" Kupka - baritone
Skip Mesquite - flute, saxophone
Greg Adams - trumpet, flugelhorn
Mic Gillette - trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone
David Padron - trumpet
Tower of Power kicks off this final night at Fillmore West in an appropriately energetic style. The lineup featured here is still a relatively early incarnation of the band at their best, and the group performs tunes from their first two albums primarily, with an emphasis on funk and soul punctuated by their legendary horn section. In later years the group became more smooth and streamlined, but here we enjoy them at their down and dirtiest, pumping out one funky blowout after another.
Bass player Francis Rocco Prestia deserves special mention, as his incredible technique, together with David Garabaldi's funky drumming, provides a rhythm section that propels the band as much as their signature horn section. Standout tracks include takes of "Back on The Streets Again" and "Knock Yourself Out" from the band's debut album, East Bay Grease. Both are up-tempo funk workouts and showcase the best aspects of this early lineup. There's also an interesting, uncharacteristically slow number from that album, "Sparkling In The Sand," showcasing Skip Mesquite on flute. Although it meanders a bit over its 10 minute development, Prestia's bass playing is astonishing and captivating throughout.
Their second album, Bump City, which at this time was still yet to be recorded, is also represented with an early version of "You Got To Funkifize" featuring incredibly fast bass playing and punchy horn charts. More signs of things to come, such as their breakout hit "You're Still a Young Man," are offered. When the band leans more toward straight soul, however, they tend to take the edge off their sound, often sterilizing the elements that made them such a compelling live act.
Thankfully, most of this set features the gritty, hard core funk that exemplified Tower's early sound - and no doubt got the Fillmore audience up and energized for a monumentally long night of Bay Area music.