In the funk, soul or jazz world, reunions are a far less risky business than in the world of rock and pop. Generally the standard of musicianship is higher (the old saying that jazzers get better as they get older), the body of work less likely to date and the musical chops more willing. And this ‘reunion’ gig had one further USP – the original band had only played only one gig in their 1985 heyday as The Family and so had a fabled, ‘lost’ album to explore in the live arena (even though Prince had played a large majority of the instruments on it). Now reformed as fDeluxe and promoting an excellent new album Gaslight, their classic Minneapolis sound may just attract a whole new audience.
An expectant, excitable Jazz Cafe crowd was treated to some tasty pre-gig Minneapolis treats courtesy of DJ Chris Philips, from Apollonia 6 to rare Prince tracks like ‘Bob George’ and ‘Scarlet Pussy’. The band kicked off with a minimalist version of ‘High Fashion’, Jellybean Johnson and man of the match Oliver Lieber’s rhythm guitars providing an almost indecently funky backdrop. It showed that Prince’s perfectionism and insistence on always delivering a well-presented show had left their mark on lead singers St Paul Peterson and Susannah Melvoin, who, despite their ‘non-glamour’ attire (no smoking jackets or silk pyjamas this time round), duetted with zeal and obvious enjoyment. Birthday boy Eric Leeds made quite an entrance to the stage just in time for his sax solo, drawing one of the biggest cheers of the evening.
‘River Run Dry’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ were pure ‘80s pop fun, causing much nostalgic reverie in the audience, the latter introduced with a passionate ‘We gotta take this song back!’ from St Paul. Leeds took centre stage for a lengthy Madhouse feature, the ‘80s jazz/funk project set up by Prince intended to showcase the fine Pittsburgh-based saxophonist. ‘Gaslight’ highlighted Susannah Melvoin’s gutsy voice to great effect, embellished by a fantastically sleazy guitar solo from Johnson with some nimble footwork on the effects pedals. The epic encore segued ‘The Screams Of Passion’ with all-time Minneapolis floorfillers ‘Mutiny’ and ‘A Love Bizarre’, bringing back cherished memories of Prince’s legendary Parade tour of 1986.
So, a thrilling night of funk’n’roll in North London, and proof that Prince spawned a veritable Frankenstein monster when he created The Family.