Words by Matthew Mendiola
Photos by Jezreel Colangoy
If you like soul with a capital S, then Tower of Power has got to be your groove. The legendary soul and funk powerhouse band held their highly-anticipated 50th anniversary concert last September 7, 2018 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. It has been more than four decades since the band last came to the Philippines, and for Pinoy Tower fans, those two hours of non-stop grooving were definitely worth the wait.
As Tower of Power said, it was high time for them to come back: “We want to play for the Filipino people because they have good musical ears, and a whole lot of soul.”
The concert was a treat for both longtime fans and new listeners. Everyone was up on their feet—you just couldn’t resist the urge to dance.
The band’s setlist featured a mix of classic hits, including Soul with a Capital S, This Time It’s Real, You’re Still a Young Man, Diggin’ on James Brown, What is Hip? and new material off their latest album Soul Side of Town. The seamless transitions between songs showed just how, after all these years, Tower of Power still remains true to their signature big band era sound. The band’s new songs fit in perfectly with their classics.
If anything, they’ve only managed to sound even better.
The band’s current line-up consists of founding members David Garibaldi (drums), Francis Rocco Prestia (bass), and Emilio Castillo (2nd tenor sax), plus Stephen “Doc” Kupka (baritone sax) who, along with 1st tenor saxophonist Tom Politzer, and trumpeters Adolfo Acosta and Sal Cracchiolo, make up the five-man Tower of Power horns section. The band also consists of guitarist Jerry Cortez, Hammond B3 organist/keyboardist Roger Smith, and frontman Marcus Scott, who blew the roof off with his solid vocal performance and charismatic stage presence (to the delight of fans, Scott even walked among the crowd mid-set).
During the band’s extended jam, each of the instrumentalists had their time to shine. Garibaldi and Prestia’s insanely tight drum and bass lock proves just why Tower of Power has one of the greatest rhythm sections in music history.
Cortez’s blazing guitar work was nothing short of a virtuoso’s performance, as he switched effortlessly from funk rhythm to mid-tempo blues to fusion-inspired leads.
The same could be said about Smith, who killed it with his incredible keyboard playing. Of course, let’s not forget Castillo, Doc, and company, who stole the show several times with their incredibly tasteful chops. Nothing sounds sexier than a five-man horns section exchanging jazzy licks and scale runs.
Many musicians would regard Tower of Power’s members with god-like status, and indeed, they are gods at what they do. It’s rare to find a band with the same level of talent as Tower of Power, but as the saying goes, they don’t just play to impress. They play to express.
More than just a display of technical prowess, the Tower of Power concert was all about the music experience—a celebration of soul music in all its glory; a celebration of music that forever holds a special place in the hearts of different generations of fans.