April 23, 2005
They disbanded in 1979, only to re-unite in 1990 for an informal jam session and in 2000 for a San Francisco concert. But, their show on Saturday was supposed to be "it," the main event.
Whether their Jazzfest concert at the Sprint Stage was the essential funk band's final chapter doesn't matter right now. What matters is that it was undeniably great. Keyboardist Art Neville, bassist George Porter, Jr., drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, and guitarist Leo Nocentelli proved why the band has been sampled so many times and touted in so many different ways since their demise. Why their legacy has grown only to escape the grasp of many who grew up too late to see the original thing.
The meters played swamp funk. That slow-moving, earthy, nasty stuff. Add syncopation, hot melodies, and subtle textures for the full recipe.
As The Meters played "He Bite Me," it was obvious why they will always be a big deal. The Meters kept the groove simple--elemental. Even if the way a bass line was hooking with a drum beat was really techinically complex, they made it sound and feel so simple. The groove went straight to the heart, escaped the mind and went right for the feet. It was all right there in "He Bite Me." The 100 lbs. of pressure keeping two pieces of steel together. Along with chemistry "He Bite Me" showed the band hasn't lost their sense of humor. It came complete with band commentary of "Don't bite me" and growls. The Meters extended the record version of "He Bite Me," as they did with opener "Fire on the Bayou" and closers "Cissy Strut" and "Hey Pocky A-Way."
At first, maybe because of Porter's sound problems and a missed cue, the band seemed off their game. Don't get me wrong. They still sounded great, but it wasn't until they took a deep breath halfway into the set and broke the ice with the audience did they visibly start to savor the moment. Nocentelli and Porter kept rapping as they jammed.
Judging by the way the crowd clapped together in off-rhythm during "Hand Clapping Song," the crowd was enjoying themselves. It was beautiful to hear everyone singing during "People Say" and "Hey Pocky A-Way."
"Welcome to New Orleans" sent shivers of pride. If only to collect everyone who's never been here and stand them up in that field and start their experience of the city with The Meters. Can't The Meters and The Department of Tourism get together on this?
Fire On The Bayou
He Bite Me
Look-Ka Py P
Hand Clapping Song
Be My Lady
Welcome To New Orleans
It Ain't No Use
Hey, Pocky A-Way