Tower of Power – October 7, 2023 at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, Welch, MN
Review and photos by Jim Zons
The first time I really listened to Tower of Power is when the self-styled funky kingpins of R&B, Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers, introduced me to them when the Studs covered maybe six or seven Tower of Power songs during their sets on Sunday nights at Bunkers in the 1990s. I loved those covers so much, I just had to seek out the originals by the masters of R&B and funk, Tower of Power, and have loved them ever since, so I was quite excited to capture their concert on Saturday, October 7, 2023 at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.
With a band that has been around since 1968, there have been a few changes to the line up to Tower of Power in that time. Original founders, tenor saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo and baritone saxophonist Stephen “Doc” Kupka, are still very much a part of this powerful band, along with original drummer David Garibaldi, Roger Smith on keys, Adolfo Acosta on trumpet, Tom Politzer on sax, Jerry Cortez on guitar, Marc van Wageningen on bass, Dave Richards on trumpet, and Mike Jerel, their newest lead vocalist, who just joined in 2022. Yeah: that’s a lot of people on stage, and an incredible SOUND!
When you go to a Tower of Power concert, don’t expect to see a flashy light show, dance numbers or a lot of unnecessary flash; with Tower of Power, it’s all about the MUSIC. Their first song in their set pretty much summed up what we were going to hear from the next ninety minutes: “We Came To Play Soul With a Capital ‘S.’” Man! Such a soulful, funky, tight mix of vocals and horns! This was the first time I heard T.O.P.’s newest lead singer, Mike Jerel, who did a masterful job on vocals (of course, he ain’t no Lenny Williams, but who is???) Jerel had a little bit of a “preacher” cadence though in between songs that did get a little wearing at times, but his singing ability helped make up for that. One other draw back was the amount of patter between songs meant they played far fewer songs than a normal T.O.P. concert. For example, “Don’t Change Horses (In The Middle of The Stream)” had two or three “false” endings that extended the song to maybe 15 minutes or more, meaning some of my favorite songs like “Soul Vaccination” and “Squib Cakes” wound up getting left out of the set. Still, being able to hear “You’ve Got to Funkifize” and “What Is Hip” live and in all their tight, brassy glory was hard to surpass!
Tower of Power doesn’t play often in the Midwest, so if they do make it back in the area anytime soon, and you really dig a big brass section and funky throwback grooves from the 1960s and early 1970s, you won’t want to miss these cats!