The Austin garage-soul act Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears played a makeup show in Lawrence on Saturday night after canceling several months ago following a band member's death in the family.
Lewis decided to play a gig down the road a piece from his kinfolk -- and the guy made good on his word that he'd reschedule. Hell, the crowd liked the band already, and it hadn't played a single note yet.
Following openers Hacienda -- a four-piece from San Antonio -- Black Joe Lewis and his crew ripped through one soul scorcher after another, drawing from their lone full-length album Tell 'Em What Your Name Is, and the band's cover song catalog. The seven-piece outfit, each dressed in horned rim glasses and ties, paid homage to the legacy of James Brown and what Lewis described as "down-home Texas funk."Lewis passed a man-sized bottle of Jack Daniels to his bassist and rhythm guitarist between songs. On the other hand, the crowd sweated out every bit of booze they ingested. On a day that saw the mercury approach triple digits, it was sweltering inside; but judging by the dancing, no one seemed to mind the heat.
Lewis may not possess James Brown's savvy steps, but does have a voice that's just as exciting, even if it's a bit less polished. (During "I'm Broke," he let out a desperate, blood-curdling scream.) Also like James Brown, Black Joe Lewis has one hell of a tight band behind him. When not stepping together in time, the Honeybears' horns, trumpeter, baritone and tenor saxophonist laid down sweet sounds, and the bearded bassist put down a groove as thick as decade-old peanut butter while Black Joe took the lead on the six-string.
After about an hour, the Honeybears put down their gear and left the stage, knowing good and well they wouldn't be gone long.
Several songs into the encore, they dropped "Sugarfoot." Lewis took time in the middle of a groove to ask the trumpet player what he had for lunch. "That was a pretty good soccer game today, huh?" he asked, referring to the U.S.A.'s World Cup loss to Ghana earlier in the day. "Man I love the U.S., but I gotta go for Africa. They gotta win somethin'. They don't have but one team left."
After a quick statement that the band would never play in the state of Arizona, Black Joe Lewis put his guitar down and closed with "Get Yo Shit," a mix of spoken word and soulful screaming about coming home to find all his shit in the yard.
Here's to hoping Lewis' kinfolk never skip town, so this scorching act has an excuse to keep coming back to Kansas City.