Katrina Marie Band hit the Gulu Gulu Café in Salem, Massachusetts last night, proving their old school R&B standards and originals were a good match for the vibe of the old fashioned ale house. Opening with “Man Like That” Katrina Marie’s voice purred, a raspy flow properly supported by the rumble of the rhythm section that wafted just beneath her voice.
Katrina Marie finessed “Clock Tower” with a savvy delivery amidst her belty coos before a down tempo version of “Can’t Buy Me Love” let her show her range. Singing slowly, she let the lyrics pour forth from a depth of emotion inside her. Her voice traveled that vocal melody line with a svelte, velvety thing that marks the best singers in this genre.
Having a way with rendering other artists’ songs, Katrina Marie was a natural on “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” That number also let the band showcase their peppy but tight ensemble work. Guitarist Sarah Ellis and keyboardist John Libby skipped along their pleasant It was the way the players kept force behind her gritty female alto that made the tune jumpy and fun.
Bringing things into the modern era, Katrina Marie Band sprung into “Feel It Still” By Portugal The Man. A kicking groove from the rhythm section of bassist Jon Grogins and drummer Bob Martin. Sarah Ellis’s snappy guitar work kept this piece in fine motion. Keeping things current, the group went into the Amy Whinehouse hit “You Know I’m No Good.” Katrina Marie managed the dramatic build up of the lyrical tale and her natural bounce Sarah Ellis provided an extra nice vocal texture to “The Walk” by Mayer Hawthorne while bass player John made the song walk, move along to a bulbous ripple.
Katrina Marie sang the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins number “I Put A Spell On You” with mighty soul, putting true feeling into it. Her self-restraint controlled the amount of oomph she would release at one time in each verse, Keyboardist John Libby managed to balance a melody that was both tender and foreboding. Jon Grogins put his personal stamp on “No Diggity,” a hip hop number by Dr. Drea and Queen Pen, his flow of low end notes putting clever motion into the song. Sarah Ellis chimed in with a sly melodic twist of her own.
Katrina Marie Band captured the peppy joy of George Michael’s “Faith” before kicking things up with ZZ Ward’s “Put The Gun Down,” nailing the vibe with vocal cooing and bass throbbing. Ms. Ellis played some aggressive guitar on “Hard Fight” before the band conjured up the pop soul bounce of Elle King’s Ex’s And Oh’s.” John Libby’s sweet organ line added spice to “Drive My Car’ and belty vocal spikes made “Good Kisser” a pleasing number. Bass player and guitarist teamed up well for the rollicking “Johnny’s Got A Boom Boom” and even more so for the smacking “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up.”
Ellis’s old school lead guitar phrase sparked up the band’s take on Devil Doll’s “Liquor Store” as much as the singer’s mischievous delivery. New original song “Messed Up” found Katrina Marie using her more forceful delivery punctuated with meaningful pauses by the players. She rocked out even more with Grace Potter’s “Paris,” with more of that whirlwind delivery artfully broken up by sudden shifts in the motion.
Keyboard John Libby substituted for the horns effectively playing “Hold On, I’m Coming,” a swinging old school R&B number that allowed the band to let their hair down, swaying to the vibe. Rendering The Beatles’ “Come Together” as a sexy R&B piece, it was uncanny how well Katrina Marie could color and flavor things with her voice. Katrina Marie Band closed out their gig with an emotive cover of the jazzy R&B tune “Valerie,” a breezy, light work that showed the band’s ensemble skills as well as the singer’s ability to project emotion even within a low key croon.
Katrina Marie Band have built up quite a following in greater-Boston, playing many of the venues that bands would like to get into. Everyone reading this live review is likely to walk into a room they are playing or hear about them from someone else who has seen them. Their success is tied mainly to their talent, versatility, and showmanship. One cannot help but be impressed by their combined talents while enjoying the vibe they bring to a room. Everyone in Gulu Gulu did last Saturday night.