Spread your wings and fly with Con Brio
Live Report : “Spread your wings and fly with Con Brio” @ Shibuya Duo Exchange 2016.11.24
I had previously seen Con Brio live this past summer. They performed a teaser of a set at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival Thursday night pre-party. The band only played 4 songs or so, but had left enough of an impression on me to make it into my top 5 acts of the festival. It’s not that there was any shortage of quality acts at Fuji Rock this year, it just speaks to the vibe created by the Con Brio live experience. So when I got word the band was set to return to Japan this fall, I made sure to take in more than a taste.
Con Brio was in Japan for 2 stops (Osaka and Tokyo) as part of their birds of paradise tour, which sees the band touring their first full length album, Paradise. Their sound and live show have already been compared to some of the greats. People have been tossing around names like, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Sly Stone, D’Angelo, Queen, Earth Wind & Fire, Prince and more. While these boys from the bay still have a ways to go to catch anyone on this list, it’s a good starting point for understanding what to expect from a Con Brio show, led by frontman Ziek McCarter and his band of spiritual funkers.
The influences and San-Francisco bred, psychedelic-soul vibe are evident, but for Con Brio it’s simple. In their own words, their “two-step process to every show or music-related event is: 1. Show up 2. Turn up”. While most young, hip acts these days claim they “turn up”, they ain’t turning up as high as Ziek and the gang. Con Brio’s whole philosophy is about getting higher and more in tune with the audience. Their album name references the heavens above, containing tracks entitled, “Liftoff”, “Eagle Eye” and “No limits”. Their current tour is called the birds of paradise. I’m not sure how much higher or turned up you can get than a bird flying through heaven. Keep that image in mind and you’ll start to get what Con Brio is all about.
Shibuya’s Duo Music exchange served as venue and suited the band perfectly. The gig wasn’t quite sold out, but the smallish club was packed in tight enough to give a personal vibe. Throughout the roughly 90 minute set, Con Brio strives to make it personal. It all starts with the theatrics of Ziek McCarter, who came out wearing something resembling a dreamcoat and gave us everything from backflips, to high-kicks, to the splits. He was dancing in the crowd and serenading us in MJ-esque falsettos. Ziek McCarter is a true showman who oozes emotion and a spirituality that is rarely seen on a musical stage. Con Brio doesn’t end with Ziek however. The rest of the band can more than keep up with their frontman. Brendan Liu on trumpet, when not blaring his horn is bouncing around the stage, dancing up a revolution with McCarter or jumping in the crowd to keep the vibes in check. Patrick Glynn is their piano geek hippie, who keeps the funky sounds flowing with trademark organ squeals or more retro-modern synth sounds. While blues guitarist, Benjamin Andrews is a guitar wolf in sheep’s clothing (well, denim to be exact). Andrews plays along with the band, keeping in check until he is given his time to strike. It’s only then when he unleashes a fury of riffs, scales and solos on the unsuspecting crowd, in a manner and display that would make some of the greats take notice.
Con Brio isn’t full throttle all the time, but give their funky grooves room to breathe. The inundated crowd below is given time to exhale, before being taken back above the stratosphere once again. Through their set, Con Brio played the bulk of their new album and then some. The Thursday evening Shibuya crowd was locked in the whole time. Tracks like “Money”, “Free & Brave” and “Liftoff” in particular got a big reaction. The encore was never in doubt and while it was sparse on tunes, it was big on improvisation, soul and vibes. Con Brio is a band I wouldn’t hesitate recommending to anyone of any musical persuasion. Their live show takes it even a step further and almost transcends live music at times to make way for an interpretive, artistic, highly emotive, expression of love. Con Brio is really suited to smaller, more intimate venues. So before the word gets out and they move onto bigger things, I highly urge you see Con Brio in as intimate a setting as possible, it’s an experience you won’t forget.