I figured the Royal Family Ball featuring Soulive first (Lettuce, which shares some members, joined them on stage a bit later in the set) on Friday on the Main Stage would be a great show; after all, not many bands can say they’ve recorded with Chaka Khan, Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli and John Scofield. Nor can many bands open for The Rolling Stones on one tour and have Stevie Wonder sit in with them on the next tour. This funk and soul trio's musical relationships speak volumes about how versatile these talented musicians are. Jazz, hip-hop, rock, soul, funk, R&B, blues – musically, they cover a lot of ground, and they flexed all those muscles for Waka fans.
The instrumental group started off the set with a few originals — some of which sampled the likes of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, electrifying the funk- and jamband-savvy audience — and a few covers, including a few tracks off their "Rubber Soulive" album of 2010. The band's take on Beatles classics received rave reviews from critics and now I know why; I can't imagine anything funkier or more fun. The cover Soulive did that particularly impressed me was "Eleanor Rigby," instrumental of course, with a really super-jazzy, funky, fast tempo, a heavy bass groove that drove the song forward, and a breathtaking guitar solo front and center in the tune that would have made Santana stand up and shout. It truly was unbelievable musicianship. I didn't think it could get it any better, but then it did, when members of Lettuce appeared with a three-man horn section, amping up the group's sound to levels of skill and sheer funky joy not heard by these ears in a long time.