Before Thundercat took the stage, it was local musician V. Vecker who opened — armed with a synthesizer, loop pedal, and alto saxophone. The soundscapes he created were layered and quite drowsy, proving to be an odd choice given the headliner's funky tendencies. Still, Vecker's experimental jazz allowed the audience to experience another side of the genre mix that Thundercat draws from.
Stephen Bruner and his bandmates entered the stage to immediate applause, Bruner wearing all black — including a cape, which he quickly discarded. He burped into the mic to greet the audience, and then the band was off. Diving into new songs off of Drunk including singles "Bus in these Streets" and "Friend Zone," the band were a well-oiled machine, with Thundercat's taut bass lines at its helm. Drummer Justin Brown is an incredible soloist who intuitively knows how and when to build rhythms up and strip them back. Keyboardist Dennis Hamm played with subtlety and grace, locking down bass lines when Thundercat ran scales during his solos.
The band explored a choice selection of Thundercat's catalogue, including "Heartbreaks + Setbacks," and "Lotus and the Jondy" from Apocalypse, "Daylight" from The Golden Age of Apocalypse, "Lone Wolf and Cub" from The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam EP. The set was a mix of dance-oriented numbers, gentler songs that focused on Thundercat's soaring vocals and bass playing, and virtuosic solos. As frantic and jaw dropping as the marathon solos were, it was tender moments such as during "Lone Wolf and Cub" where concertgoers experienced the magic intimacy that Thundercat's playing can communicate.
The crowd went wild during "Them Changes," with its fat, earworm bass line; Thundercat grinned as the audience yelled the lyrics. This really was a show for every fan, Bruner dipping into excerpts from collaborations such as Kendrick Lamar's "These Walls," Flying Lotus's "MmmHmm," and the first verse of "Show You the Way," which features Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. His thanks was evident as the crowd continually roared for more. "Oh Sheit It's X" was a riot, Thundercat letting the audience sing vocals during the encore.
The playful energy of Thundercat and his band was both entertaining and key to their creation of such a dynamic and nuanced sound, one that combines soul, R&B, jazz, pop and an otherworldly quality to make a sound that is truly one of a kind. A deeply positive atmosphere enveloped the Rickshaw Theatre last night, where fans of Thundercat experienced an incredibly hardworking musician and his esteemed bandmates reaping the rewards of their craft.