Lettuce Hits Boettcher Concert Hall
Lettuce plays with Colorado Symphony
On Saturday the 10th at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the jam-funk band Lettuce performed for their first time with the Colorado Symphony. It was an evening that left listeners wanting more from the collaboration than what was presented.
Lettuce shredded it just as tightly as they ever have in their 20 + year career. Featuring a conventional yet wide instrumentation of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, and trumpet, there was plenty of musical variation within this group alone. From hip-hop inspired beats to jazzy latin grooves, the band was in perfect sync with each other from the first down beat. Not only this, but the group went so far as to bring their own light and smoke machines as well, creating an enticing visual array of colors and textures that reflected off the waves of mezzanines, alluring Lettuce heads. In terms of individual performances, various members of Lettuce delivered standout solos throughout the evening. Particularly, keyboardist Nigel Hall impressively demonstrated his technical and artistic abilities at multiple moments during the performance. Manning all kinds of organs, electric pianos, and synthesizers, Hall provided a unique voice among the layers of funk instrumentation. Not only this, but he also acted as the group’s vocalist, with similarly versatile tone and musicianship, especially during the group’s cover of the Tears for Fears classic, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Overall, Lettuce on their own was able to retain their standard of high-quality jam performances.
The regrettable aspect of the evening, however, was found in the Denver Center’s premier orchestral group, the Colorado Symphony. This left audience members genuinely surprised, as this group also has a reputation for refined, high-quality performances. The issue came down to on and off stage mixing between the symphony and the band. There isn’t much to be said about the performance of the symphony itself, as it was only barely audible during the entirety of the show. Lettuce greatly overpowered the group and did little to make up for the deficiency by mixing themselves according to the lower volume of their musical cohorts. This made for a disappointing synthesis of band and orchestra, depicting the celebrated Colorado Symphony as simply another harmonic layer haphazardly thrust into the fray, rather than an organic and purposeful element of the performance.
Moreover, the Boston-based funk band was inappropriately loud in general, obnoxiously overpowering the well-balanced symphony. Despite the hall’s remarkable ability to amplify on its own, Lettuce showed no awareness of this and failed to adjust. Dynamically, the group sometimes struggled with itself as well, as the horn and guitar players generally dominated the entire room, whereas other voices became suppressed in the mix. Coupled with the Symphony’s poor representation among the full ensemble, the result was a confounding sonic blend.
The tunes were performed well, and each entity on their own clearly knew what they were doing, but the Colorado Symphony and Lettuce are two outfits that are better left to their own devices than joined in performance together.