Review By:Lexi Lewis
Nothin’ But A Bass!
Victor Wooten appeared at the Largo Cultural Center in Largo, FL on Thursday, October 1, 2015 for a captivating one night show that lasted nearly two and a half hours. With no formal introduction, Victor walked out on stage with a smile, casually dressed, wearing a black knitted hat covering most his dreadlocks, a daisy yellow colored baseball style shirt with “Wooten” written on the back, black pants, black sneakers and his bass guitar already in place ready to play. With his greeting, he informed us he’d be taking us on a musical journey so we’d better buckle up for the ride but convinced us that he’d take good care of us. From the start of the show, he made his bass play notes I didn’t know existed on a bass guitar; it was magical.
With every stroke of the bass, there was a musical turn in the journey; one in which we were happy to take with him. Because of the intensity of his playing, we were all sitting in such silence you could hear a pin drop. Suddenly, the bass got really funky, the lights changed from a cool blue and white to a soft but fire red – that’s when I decided to buckle up! I must say, he did warn us. After the funky tune, he began to speak to the audience telling us that during sound check, there was an interruption of a radio station coming through but it eventually was fixed. He said that to take time to acknowledge the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make a show a success.
After the acknowledgement, it was time for more bass! He joked and told us that he uses a looping pedal so he doesn’t have to hire others to play for him. This time, he played the bass “funkier than an unwashed armpit.” That quote is compliments of my friend, Otis Williams of The Temptations. While this show is the majority of him playing the bass, there were times where he spoke to the audience to maintain a nice flow. At one particular point, he recited words that had great meaning then later told us it was called “The Message” and was written by his brother Joseph Wooten.
Next he sang the words “my life” along with a few other words then took us on an obscure turn in the journey where his fingers moved so fast, my eyes couldn’t keep up! A lady in the audience yelled “make it talk!” He continued with an incredibly deep sound; it was unbelievable to watch as he did this almost effortlessly. It was extremely intense. The audience began to applaud. He, again, sang the words “my life” and at the very end, he asked everyone to sing the words “my life” then the song ended with a roaring applause.
When the applause died down, Victor brought out his long-time friend and fellow bassist, Joe Aranda. Joe strapped on his bass and away they went. They played an upbeat tempo where Victor began to scat then encouraged the audience to participate by following his lead and repeating after him. I know the audience enjoyed it; no more silence for sure! After they played together we went to intermission.
Upon the return from intermission, Victor talked about his book “The Lesson.” He stated that he didn’t want to write an instructional book but a book of stories. To his surprise, the book has done well all over the world and is used in colleges including the prestigious Berkley College of Music. At the beginning of each chapter, there are music notes and if you put them all together, you can play his song entitled “The Lesson.” After explaining, he played the song. By the way, did I mention that the only instrument in his entire show is his bass? That’s right, nothin’ but a bass.
It was time for Joe Aranda to join Victor on stage again. I looked forward to it! I couldn’t wait to hear what they’d play together. Once they began to play, I thought I was going to lose my mind because they played The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).” Stop. Two bass guitars playing this song!? Yes, it happened. I witnessed it. Joe held it down while Victor played the lead. Joe had a solo in which he slapped that bass so hard I thought it was going scream “ouch.” This song got so intense I thought Victor was going to pump his hips like Michael Jackson or moonwalk! Okay, I confess, maybe I was thinking of getting up and doing that! No, I didn’t – I said “thinking.” It was electrifying to see these two play off each other.
He also brought up a vocalist, Ari, who delivered a very soulful song. I never expected to hear what came out of her mouth! No wonder Victor invited her up on stage to sing. Ari was fierce. She has a band called Ari and The Alibis in which I will be checking out in the near future for sure. This was a nice showcase in addition to his already fantastic show.
Victor spoke to us again pointing out the fact that the media usually reports all that is bad and we as a people are not all bad. He made an assumption that everyone in the auditorium didn’t care what race, creed, color, religion or political views you have or a part of, you were just there to enjoy the show while setting aside any differences you may have. Basically, he was saying how nice it was for all these different types of wonderful people to be together without incident but you don’t see the media reporting on that. And, if we can do this in this setting, to take it outside the setting and show the world that all people aren’t bad. It was a great lead in to his next song.
He started his follow-up song with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words “I have a dream.” As he played the bass, various portions of that famous speech were played. Honestly, it was tear-jerking. He set that song up so well with his previous story that you could not help but be moved. At the end of the song, he said two very touching and powerful words “don’t forget” to which he received a standing ovation from a good majority of the audience. Influential.
We got back on the funky journey for a little bit but the journey came to an end. Upon his goodbye he received a well-deserved standing ovation from every person in the place. I “unbuckled my belt” then saw an imaginary sign that read “until next time.”
The meet and greet after the show was also incredible. Victor was so warm to each and every person. I don’t think there was one person he didn’t hug! And, he stayed until every fan was greeted.
In closing, to watch Victor Wooten play is to watch him become one with the instrument and the music. As I said in a previous review, he is a master of his craft; simply phenomenal. I want to leave you with something to think about that he said in the show last night, “do what you believe and you’ll find an audience.”
Thank you to Rob Mondora for your hospitality while I was at the Largo Cultural Center. For information on the Largo Cultural center visit www.largo.com.
Thank you, Victor Wooten, for sharing your talent, your hugs, knowledge, thought-provoking messages and time with the world. To see if Victor is going to be in your city, visit www.victorwooten.com. It’s a show you don’t want to miss!