Review - The Wooten Brothers @ the UC Theatre (1/20/24)

Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

As the clock ticked beyond the promised 8pm start this past Saturday night at the UC Theatre in Berkeley, a palpable sense of anticipation wove its way through the eager fans of the lower pit. In the midst of this temporal suspense, a mosaic of pre-show activities unfolded – a gentleman behind me was engrossed in the climactic final minutes of the 49ers vs. Packers playoff showdown on his phone, others in the crowd searched for any inkling of the imminent show opener. The air was charged with expectancy, and the elusive curtain-raiser's presence remained an enigma.

The clock's hands finally bowed to the persistent march of time, and at precisely 8:20 pm, the atmosphere erupted in jubilant cheers. A luminary figure emerged, none other than Victor Wooten himself, gracefully taking center stage and seizing the microphone to extend a warm welcome to the assembled audience. Serendipitously, the climax of the Niner game mirrored the commencement of the concert, and a spirited 'go niners' erupted from someone in the crowd near the righthand of the stage before Victor could utter a word. Unfazed, he acknowledged the sports-spirited interjection, musing that neither he nor the majority of the audience likely harbored a keen interest in the game – after all, why attend the spectacle if sports held sway over the night's sonic odyssey?

With the audience attuned and the playful banter settling, Victor pivoted to the raison d'ĂȘtre for his sans-bass appearance at center stage – a heartfelt endorsement and introduction for the show opener, the virtuosic Stanley Jordan. Recounting the genesis of their musical kinship, Victor reminisced about receiving a demo tape that conjured the illusion of two guitarists crafting harmonious melodies. The revelation that it was the singular prowess of Stanley Jordan, tapping his fingers across the guitar neck, left Victor in awe. A cheeky remark about losing sleep until mastering the technique himself added a touch of humor, as Victor debunked any myth that he pioneered the neck-tap style on a bass with a mere four strings – it was Stanley, the six-string maestro.

Stanley Jordan @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Stanley Jordan @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

With this spirited prelude, Victor graciously ushered Stanley Jordan onto the stage, setting the scene for a 40-minute opus that unfurled the tapestry of Stanley's extraordinary and utterly mesmerizing playing style.

Approximately three songs deep into Stanley's mesmerizing performance, a hush fell over the audience as he stood poised at the microphone. Seizing the moment, he reached for a bottle of water, not merely indulging in a fleeting sip but opting for a theatrical consumption of the entire bottle, leaving the crowd in awe and speculation. The thirst quenched, Stanley, revitalized, was poised to dive back into the musical symphony. Amidst the myriad of enchanting moments, if pressed to pinpoint a singular highlight – a daunting task given the overall brilliance – it would undoubtedly be his soul-stirring rendition of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby." Yet, the entirety of his set proved nothing short of extraordinary. As the final notes lingered, Stanley playfully quipped about losing track of time, humorously expressing his hope that the stage lacked a metaphorical hook wielded by The Wooten Brothers to prematurely whisk him away from the spotlight.

Regi, Victor and Roy Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Regi, Victor and Roy Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

As the clock approached 9:15 pm, the suspended video screens above the stage that had displayed QR codes to sign-up for the Wooten Brothers mailing list stirred to life, initiating a captivating montage of video clips chronicling the Wooten Brothers' journey from childhood to present. The visual narrative unfolded with poignant glimpses across their collective history. At precisely 9:20 pm, the brothers, in chronological order of their birth, graced the stage. The ensemble featured Regi (guitar/vocals), Joseph (keyboards/vocals), and the central presence of Victor (bass/vocals) and Roy "Futureman" (drums/vocals). A later segment of the performance would illuminate the memory of their brother Rudy, who, in 2010 passed away but who left an indelible mark with his unique talent of playing dual saxophones simultaneously. However, for the present moment, the stage belonged to Regi on the left, Joseph on the right, and the dynamic central duo of Victor and Roy.

Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

Amidst the night's array of comedic interludes, a standout moment unfolded when Victor took the stage to introduce the band. Commencing with Joseph, he playfully highlighted Joseph's dual roles as the touring keyboardist for the Steve Miller Band and his contributions to Whitney Houston's inaugural album. Victor cheekily quipped to the audience, 'you can't say that.' The spotlight then shifted to Futureman, adorned with the accolade of a 5-time Grammy award winner, accompanied by Victor's repeated refrain, 'you can't say that.' Finally, the eldest sibling, Regi, affectionately known as the 'Teacha' (not Teacher), took center stage in Victor's narrative. Victor regaled the audience with the heartwarming tale of 10-year-old Regi's early mentoring days, opting to teach his younger brothers to play instruments instead of resorting to sibling beatdowns. Even today, Regi continues to share his musical wisdom. Noteworthy was Victor's revelation that Regi had contributed to two tracks on Whitney Houston's debut album, punctuated once again by the whimsical refrain, 'you can't say that.' The performance not only showcased the musical prowess of each Wooten brother but also underscored the deep-seated love and mutual respect that has threaded through their shared lifetime of playing together.

Regi, Roy, Victor and Joseph Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Regi, Roy, Victor and Joseph Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

As the night approached its crescendo, Victor once again seized the microphone, weaving a tale that began with a Facebook message received several years ago. The sender, a person formerly affiliated with Don Kerschner, revealed a nostalgic connection to the iconic '70s television series, the Don Kerschner Rock Concert. This series held significant prominence in its heyday and Victor recounted a chapter from the Wooten Brothers' teenage years when, aspiring musicians, they ventured into a bona fide recording studio to craft a demo tape. Mailing this tape to the Kerschner production team in the hopes of getting a chance to perform on the show.

Fast forward to the present, and Victor shared the remarkable story of receiving a message from someone seeking permission to auction the demo tape for charity. With a heartfelt effort, Victor reached out to his brothers, forging an arrangement to retrieve the long-lost tape. And even more recently, Victor noted how they've tracked down the original 2" master tape from those historic recording sessions and had the tapes baked in Denver so they could extract the original stems from those sessions. The brothers are now diligently engaged in remastering this gem, with plans to release it for the collective enjoyment of all of us. As a tantalizing preview, Victor announced they'd perform three songs from the Wooten Brothers' 1970s demo tape, a musical time capsule poised to transport us back to the essence of their formative years.

Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Victor Wooten @ the UC Theatre (Photo: Kevin Keating)

The pinnacle of the evening manifested in the band's heartfelt tribute to John Coltrane, a moment that resonated deeply with me. The ethereal ambiance enveloped the stage as Stanley Jordan rejoined the ensemble, creating a musical synergy that transcended time and genres. Victor, wielding an acoustic upright bass, and the rest of the band breathed life into the timeless spirit of a classic John Coltrane composition. The night, marked by this extraordinary homage and the seamless collaboration of talents, left an indelible imprint. As always, witnessing Victor and his brothers in the live performance setting was a sheer delight, reaffirming the enduring magic of their musical camaraderie.

You can find our 2017 interview with Victor here. Thanks for reading and while you're at it, you can follow us as well here: Instagram  |  Facebook.

Victor Wooten Setlist The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall, Berkeley, CA, USA 2024, Sweat

Stanley Jordan Setlist The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall, Berkeley, CA, USA 2024

#buttons=(Accept !) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies to enhance your experience. Learn More
Accept !