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Tower of Power brings funk back to the islands

by Chris Alcantara, assoc. editor

“We’ve been gettin’ funky for about 36 years now,” said Tower of Power band leader/saxophonist Emilio Castillo. “And ain’t nothin’ changed; we are a soul band, and we play soul music, period.”




For those who might have forgotten, the world-famous 10-piece band from Oakland, Calif. immediately tore into its hit “Soul with a capital S” as a reminder. Bringing the funk from the East Bay since 1967, Tower of Power boasts a reputation as one of the most explosive live performance groups in the industry. Valentine’s Day 2004 at the Neil Blaisdell arena was no exception, as they gave the island of O‘ahu a “soul vaccination” courtesy of Tom Moffat Productions.

Being only 20 years old, I was the youngest audience member in my section by at least a decade, yet I was surprisingly impressed by the “in your face” attitude and raw energy that came from the stage.

“ I’ve never seen so many old(er) people getting down and crazy, in one place,” said Shavae’cha Lee, fellow HPU student and concert-goer. “The band got down too. They were doing something like a mix between the “Harlem Shake” and a heart attack. It was splendiferous.”

Though Tower of Power has undergone a number of personnel changes through the years, the unique sound fronted by its legendary five-piece horn section has remained. Castillo (tenor saxophone), Stephen “The Funky Doctor” Kupka (Baritone saxophone), Tom Politzer (lead tenor saxophone), Mike Bogart (trumpet/flugelhorn), and Adolfo Acosta (trumpet/flugelhorn) weaved together to drive a powerful sound that was unmistakably funk. It is the first time I have ever watched someone play the trumpet, or flugelhorn for that matter, and thought to myself, “that person is definitely cooler than I am.”

The beat was held together by world-renowned bassist Rocco Prestia, drummer David Garibaldi, keyboardist Roger Smith, and the whaling riffs of guitarist Jeff Tamelier. Equally impressive were the vocals of a recent addition to the Tower of Power family, Larry Braggs as the front man. Belting out classics such as “Soul Vaccination” and “You’re Still a Young Man,” receiving leis from the crowd, and constantly reminding concert-goers that it was a party and they needed to dance, Braggs never allowed a dull moment to pass.

“ Who the hell put all these tables here in front of the stage?” asked Bragg. “That’s supposed to be a dance floor, and if everybody in the room doesn’t stand up right now, we’re stopping the show.”

Not taking the threat lightly, a hoard of people immediately swarmed the area in front of the stage and proceeded to boogey the night away while Bragg reached out to slap hands in the crowd.

“ Tower of Power has always had an audience in Hawai‘i, and every time they come we get unbelievable feedback,” said Agge Sjöbom, a media representative at Tom Moffat Productions and a former HPU Kalamalama editor. “When they came a year or two ago, they played mostly new stuff, but this time, for Valentine’s Day, they played all the classics. It was great.”


2004, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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