Tower of Power November 9, 2006
By Glen Creason
East Bay institution Tower of Power came to Cerritos on Saturday night and lit up the local groove transformers with musical electricity that could have powered the left coast from here up to Oakland. Blasting off like a funk space shuttle, the band roared at full throttle through an amazing, high-voltage show that sprinted from start to finish without a gulp of air along the way. The juiced up TOP crowd came to move and it became darn-near impossible NOT to shake something when the fellas roared through the first turn at about the second song in the fully-power-packed twenty song sprint. Considering many of these cats were blowing their horns in the days of Haight-Ashbury their youthfulness on stage and musical strength was inspiring for the white whiskers set who salt and peppered the hall. This is a band that must be heard live and each show is one to cherish for folks who like their tunes served hot. I think the sometimes staid Performing Arts Center will glow from this one for a while.
The hallmark of Tower of Power has always been the famed horn section anchored by Doc Kupka on baritone sax and leader/founder Emilio Castillo on sax. However, this night was elevated by a marvelous rhythm section, including the blazing brass of lead sax man Tom Politzer, a scorching array of guitar licks by Bruce Conte, the keyboard voyages of Roger Smith and a powerful, stage-filling performances of vocalist Larry Braggs. The band opened, oh so appropriately with “We Came to Play” and blasted the lid off the big hall for eight consecutive, rocking numbers including “Soul With a Capital S,” “Only So Much Oil in the Ground,” “Can’t You See,” “Get Yo’ Feet Back on the Ground” and the one ballad that slowed the heartbeat under a hundred “Time Will Tell.” Even the ballad moved to a stirring finish thanks to Braggs and those blasting horns. Unsatisfied with the bouncing audience in the first half the Tower of Power busted off a chunk of nine more numbers that never slowed from a gallop. When they sang the utterly uplifting “You Ought to Be Havin’ Fun,” everybody was having fun, including the band from one to ten. Familiar hits gave the faithful something to hang their R&B hats on including the giddy up of “Don’t Change Horses,” the lyrical “”So Very Hard to Go” and the truly funky “Still Diggin’ on James Brown.” Braggs commanded the stage while the band wailed behind him, especially the V-8 sax of Politzer and the stinging solos of Conte who left audience mouths hanging open whenever he stepped forward. By “What is Hip” the entire crowd was standing, staying up mostly through the glories of “Soul Vaccination” and encores of “You’re Still a Young Man” and “Knock Yourself Out.” The Oakland soul placed before this So. Cal audience showed Bump City to be a musical motherland for fine old jams, as demonstrated by this true Tower of Power.