Perhaps a third of the way through the Aldous Collins Band’s 85-minute headlining set at Brighton Music Hall on Friday night, we noticed a friend hurrying out of the club. She wasn’t leaving, but, hearing the band for the first time, had realized she needed to go back to her car and exchange her heels for some more dance-appropriate footwear.
That anecdote would neatly sum up an evening with the Aldous Collins Band, which on Friday delivered a 16-song set that was basically a funk inferno, flavored with ample helpings of rock ‘n’ roll, reggae and ska rhythms too. The South Shore septet, which includes trumpeter Kai Sandoval, expanded with sax and trombone for several songs, and boasted some impressive arrangements with a wide dynamic range. In other words, they kept the night, and that dance floor in front of the stage, moving and grooving.
Vocalist and songwriter Aldous Collins is a Goffstown, New Hampshire native who’d been in previous bands, and also tried his hand as a solo act, before moving to the South Shore area and forming this group. The band includes Norwell’s Michael Rahman on lead guitar, Scituate’s Steve Smith on percussion, Matt Nourse of Quincy on bass, Worcester’s Kevin Hennessey on keyboards, Luke Brech from Plymouth on drums, and Boston’s Sandoval on trumpet.
The ACB has steadily built a loyal following over the past few years, not just on the South Shore but in New Hampshire, and more or less all over New England with a busy schedule of dates. Their local prominence was fostered in large part by weekly, residency-type gigs, first at the British Beer Company in Pembroke, and more recently on Wednesday nights at Tinker’s Son in Norwell.
Suburban dance clubs often feature funk bands of course, but the ACB stands our from that crowd, starting with their passel of original material. Their music is full of the reggae flavorings that lend an easy island vibe to the whole evening, there are frequent crescendo choruses like the best Motown, and there is also plenty of rock ‘n’ roll muscle underlying it all. In short, it is a heady concoction which quickly wins over fans young and old.
Friday night’s show started fast and didn’t really let up much for the whole duration. The rapidly chugging, ska-flavored “Get On Board” kicked it all off, with Sandoval’s trumpet a core part of the momentum, as Collins, in black tee shirt, black shorts and a black ballcap, seemed to be exhorting the crowd of about 200 to join his beach party. There was a definite communal feeling to the next song, a reggae-tinted number we’d guess is called “Hold Tight, Baby,” and it skillfully mixed rock and funk into a delectable dance-happy stew. Guests John Cushing, on trombone, and Noah Preminger, on tenor sax, bolstered the septet for the party-hearty anthem “Super Funky,” which had Collins hopping about the stage like the Energizer (Funk) Bunny.
The ACB has a song that its fans adore, and “Bernadette” was certainly infectious, a vibrant midtempo funk march. “Lightning in a Bottle” was yet another surging dollop of incendiary funk, enhanced no end by Smith’s percussion–possibly the best use of cowbell and wood block accents we’ve ever heard. There couldn’t be a more perfect summer tune than “I Love You Summer,” a bright rock song with heavy duty, ants-in-your-pants rhythms boiling underneath it.
Probably the most complex arrangement was on “The Ship,” a song with a pronounced island vibe, working off electric piano, and the return of Cushing and Preminger for a three-man horn section. That song must have covered about eight minutes, yet was such an enjoyable romp the energy level never lagged. Right after that, “Revolvin’” offered a smooth reggae march, but one underlined by rock dynamics. “Set It On Fire” upped the rock quotient for a fiery bit of rock/funk.
The frenetic tempo of “I Love You Mama” suggested ACB had devised a hybrid of punk-funk, and its stop-and-start structure made it a wild ride. As a minor criticism, there were times here and elsewhere that Collins was almost too focused on being the host of his own party, more cheerleader than singer, and while he’s surely an engaging frontman, we’d like to hear him sing more and shout less. His vocals were intriguing on “Funk, Pickles and Dynamite,” which featured lines delivered in hip-hop fashion, and an arrangement that went from ballad tempo to searing funk.
For their encore, ACB did the melodic funk ballad “Exactly What I Had To Do,” and interpolated a cool segment of Rod Stewart’s old disco hit, “Do ya Think I’m Sexy?” The evening came to a close with the buoyant rock/reggae of “I Don’t Care,” with Cushing and Preminger back, and that three-man horn section punctuating yet another irresistibly infectious tune.
The ACB has plenty of upcoming area dates, including Wednesday at the Cisco Brewery in Nantucket; July 22 at the Improper Bostonian in Dennisport; August 21 at the Green Harbor Roots and Blues Festival in Marshfield; and September 2 at the Spire Center in Plymouth. Remember your dancing footwear>
Brighton Music Hall’s Friday night slate was a showcase for four different bands, and playing just before the ACB was Armies, pop quintet which is a side project for Dave Gutter of Rustic Overtones. Their tunes like “It Ain’t Over (Turn on the Night Light)” proved their skill at crafting melodic pop that is also very dance-oriented.