Any project featuring John Medeski is worth whatever Manhattan venues deem to charge, and The Word is no exception. A high-powered gospel/funk/jam outfit featuring Medeski, sacred steel guitarist Robert Randolph, as well as Luther Dickinson, brother Cody, and Chris Chew of the North Mississippi All-Stars, The Word has not played together since Bonnaroo 2005.
Thursday night’s reunion/revival went down at Terminal 5, a brand-new venue way west on on 56th Street with a capacity of 3,000 heads. Supertight hallways and bad crowd management made the place feel like a death trap, but once inside, all was well — especially when the sweet sounds of the Word hit. Using traditionals (and one White Stripes cover) as jumping-off points for gleeful, uplifting improv, they worked their way through a setlist that also included covers of tunes by Stevie Wonder and James Brown as well as the occasional Zeppelin tease.
But you’re better off listening to the music than reading about it, so check out the clips below. My favorite moments included the crowd-surfing maniac during “I Shall Not Be Moved” and the ill shit Medeski was doing to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which I hadn’t heard live since Springsteen broke every heart at Jazzfest. A special shout out to Ducky from Alaska, whom I see but once a year, and only at shows surrounding the holidays.
Two videos — one from Thursday with a snippet of “Joyful Sounds”, and one TV appearance from a few years ago: