Fleck and Flecktones enlighten Spaulding audience

by Sam Lederer | 2/28/02 6:00am

Theology, Fibonacci and metaphysics. These are not the topics you would expect to be discussed by members of a band. But, these were just the things that the members of Fleck Fleck and the Flecktones jived about with students last night.

After their sold-out show in Spaulding Auditorium , the Flecktones sat on the front of the stage for 45 minutes talking to fans. They didn't leave until each student who was waiting got an autograph and a handshake. That is dedication.

"We enjoy [signing autographs]; if it wasn't for our fans, we wouldn't have a career," bassist Victor Wooten said.

The Flecktones are not only dedicated to their fans. Each is a world-class musician. Fleck won two Grammys last night for his album, "Perpetual Motion." Wooten is regarded by many as the best bass player in the world. His brother, Roy "Futureman" Wooten, invented his own drum kit on a guitar, the Synth-Axe Drumitar. And Jeff Coffin is a virtual one-man horn section.

This wealth of talent manifested itself in one of the best performances in recent Dartmouth history.

The band opened up the second stop of their current tour with an empowered version of "Earth Jam." The crowd pleaser assured the audience that it was going to be a night to remember. The band's chemistry was evident from the beginning as the transitions from solo to solo were seamless.

But Fleck conceded, "Often some of the best stuff, which seems planned, really isn't."

As the band closed out the first set with "Imagine This," it was obvious that the Flecktones know each other's musical tendencies as if they were committed to memory. Victor, Fleck and Jeff mimicking one another's solos brought the crowd to its feet. To further challenge themselves, Fleck and Victor switched places in the cascade of solos.

One of the best moments of the night was during "Stomp," when Jeff and Fleck engaged in a few stage antics. The two synchronized chords then took turns trying to dupe the other into playing a stray note.

"Each of us has a great sense of humor and it comes out on stage. It lets the audience really know who we are. It's a lot of fun," Coffin commented.

It is not all fun and games for Fleck and crew though. The band members show their discipline and skill on tunes like "Sherpa" and "Snatchin'." These songs involve multiple movements and intricate solos which would intimidate a lesser band.

Each member is given time to shine on their own, however. Futureman's solo after the intermission was an amazing display of emotion and range of talent. By incorporating samplings of African children and a Chinese gong drum, Futureman created an electrified performance.

"I'm interested in bringing all these [styles] together. I'm trying to make a musical United Nations. It's an organic concept," Futureman said.

Futureman displayed his vocal abilities on "Moment," which was preceded by "Stairway to Heaven" and "Sound of Silence" teases by Fleck on guitar. The song incorporated a bit of everything: funk, jazz, rock and bluegrass.

After Victor announced that Fleck had won two Grammys, the banjoist launched into a spirited acoustic solo which lasted over 10 minutes. The intelligent classical solo demonstrated his command over his instrument.

It was straight coolness on "Sunset Road" which, again, featured the soulful vocals of Futureman. The tune was like a musical world tour with a Spanish flavored banjo solo and a Middle Eastern opening movement.

The encore, though, showcased both Fleck and the Wooten brothers at their best. A cool, yet funky version of "Hoedown" left the audience thirsting for more. Complemented by Coffin's flute mastery, Victor exploded into a frenzied solo which included his swinging his bass around his head.

There were no glitzy concert dramatics last night: no gaudy lightshows, no special effects, no fluff. The Flecktones' concert was built on musical ability and emotional energy. There was no need for anything else: the concert was simply amazing.