The singer is usually not the guy grabbing much of the attention in Galactic, as the New Orleans funk ensemble uses a revolving cast of vocalists live and on record. And in the legendary reggae band Steel Pulse, singer David Hinds has long been the galvanizing focal point, with his ton of dreadlocks and fiery rhetoric.
But Sunday at the House of Blues, convention was upended as Living Colour singer Corey Glover gave a charismatic performance sitting in for much of Galactic’s set, and Hinds, who blew out his voice at the previous night’s show, deferred to longtime Steel Pulse keyboardist Selwyn Brown.
Soul Rebels, a New Orleans brass band, opened with a blend of tradition and modern flair, offering perhaps the only known versions of “Living for the City’’ and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’’ to include sousaphone.
Galactic followed with a sprawling show that captured both a wild sense of joy and searing musicianship. Glover put a nice edge on some of Galactic’s new material, including “Out in the Street’’ and “Hey Na Na.’’ Glover was also inspired in a romp through Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir’’ and a revival of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.’’
Galactic also had the Soul Rebels join in, and even with more than a dozen players onstage, the interplay was sharp and precise among multiple saxophones, trumpets, and trombones, plus guitar, bass, keys, and drums. Galactic offered a broad definition of funk, ranging from dark and rocky to soulful and jazzy.
Steel Pulse pulled off the daunting task of sizzling without its ringleader. Hinds danced around the stage and shook his tambourine, but Brown carried the night vocally, and the rest of the band ably fleshed out the material; it was a testament to just how good Steel Pulse really is.
The British reggae troupe played many of its vintage tracks, with the 30-year-old “Worth His Weight in Gold’’ arriving early in the set and proving to be still a powerful rallying cry for reggae fans.
With a sound big and intoxicating, Steel Pulse delivered a seamless set that culminated with a raucous “Steppin’ Out’’ and cover of Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread.’’Scott McLennan can be reached at email@example.com.