Herbie Hancock: 4 October 2013 – Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY (Photos)

1973 was the year of Head Hunters, Herbie Hancock's seminal album. Forty years later, crowds are still loving "Chameleon", "Watermelon Man" and Hancock himself.
Herbie Hancock

The other week, I had asked Moby if he had visited the revamped Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. He had not, and nor had I. I sought to remedy that ASAP and found Herbie Hancock would be performing there soon, almost two years after I first saw him perform and, as it turns out, nearly forty years since the release of Head Hunters (This is Book shares his thoughts on the album here). So when I arrived at The Cap, I found it to be a lovely venue, with comfortable chairs (that could be removed for more rock and/or youth-oriented shows) and great sound. The only complaint I could make about the venue was that the bar, Garcia’s, didn’t serve any food. But, for better or worse, if you came for a show, you could wander to the bar and watch a broadcast of the stage not more than 100 yards away in there. A nice escape for those who want to drink surely. However, neither the venue nor the bar were packed for this show. Presumably this is attributable to the age of Hancock and those who were the original target demographic of Head Hunters given that a view toward the stage showed a sea of white hair or balding heads.

No matter the age of the music, Herbie Hancock is still outstanding. But he did throw the younger audience a couple of bones to get them biting. Between songs, when Hancock would discuss some of the history of his music, he referenced Daft Punk several times, proudly noting that bassist James Genus had worked with the French-duo on their latest album. He was just as praise-worthy of the rest of his quartet. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta had worked with Sting, Joni Mitchell and Chick Corea in the past while guitarist Lionel Loueke could multiply his single instrument into a wide variety of sounds and make it appear as if a dozen musicians were on stage. Loueke’s song “Seventeens” was worked into an intro for “Watermelon Man”, with Hancock admitting that people may not get the seventeen beats, so they’ll turn it into sixteen beats.

Hancock performed “Come Running to Me”, off a lesser known album Sunlight, which seemed to be the closest sound to what Daft Punk intended on their latest. True to the album’s title, this song had an inherent warmth to it due to the Spanish-style guitar from Loueke. Hancock applied vocoder /auto-tune effects to his voice in such a way that made it clear the robots had to have heard this, and if they haven’t, they really need to. Hancock may not have realized how instrumental he was in developing the future sound of music with his inclusion of electronics in the ’70s and ’80s, he was probably just creating something funky, but we should thank him for that. The night worked as sort of a greatest-hits showcase, as the even more futuristic sounding “Rockit” was to be worked into the encore and “Cantaloupe Island” and “Chameleon” also featured strongly. The set included two solos, the first was from Loueke and it ended in a wild-animal/zoo-like frenzy. Then Hancock got his own turn on the grand piano, though he did mix in some synths from a space surrounded by other digital screens and iPads. The gadgets did obstruct the view of him, but when Hancock worked his keytar, the audience could best glimpse the legend immersed in the music. Though it was just inspiring to hear him share stories about his music — every time he regaled the audience with a bit of back story, you could sense Hancock’s love of his craft.