POP MUSIC REVIEW : A Limited View of E.U.'s Go-Go Funk at Palace

"Da Butt," E.U.'s hit from the film "School Daze," may be the ultimate dance craze for the Age of Aerobics.

What better way to show off the end result of those long hours of working out than a dance that's a free-form exercise in putting your "backfield in motion"?

E.U., a nine-piece group based in Washington, capped its hourlong show at the Palace on Tuesday night by pulling members of the sparse audience on stage for three rounds of a "Da Butt" contest. It made a predictable crowd-pleaser, but it also dissipated the momentum the group--a leader in Washington's "go-go" funk movement--had established.

E.U., in its first major L.A. booking, didn't take the stage until midnight, but wasted little time in creating the call-and-response audience rapport that's a crucial factor in go-go. The bulk of the material relied on the essential components of the go-go sound: thick, chordal slabs of thunderous funk overlaid with bright, staccato horn melodies, all centered around the rolling, hard groove.

But the performance by E.U. (the initials stand for Experience Unlimited) was inconclusive on the larger question: Does the success of the single signal a potential breakthrough for go-go music?

The song currently tops the national black music chart and is rapidly rising in the pop sphere. It's been praised by critics as a return to unadulterated '70s-style funk. But aside from the hit, go-go has yet to reach a broader audience outside Washington--where giant go-go bills featuring E.U., Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers and others sell out Forum-size arenas.

Film maker Spike Lee caught one of E.U.'s live performances in Washington and decided to feature the group in "School Daze." After conceiving the idea for "Da Butt," Lee enlisted producer Marcus Miller to tailor the song to E.U.'s style.

The Palace date--a last-minute booking--probably wasn't a fair test of the group's drawing power, and the anticlimactic contest finale made it difficult to gauge E.U.'s ability to attract new fans. The band has the musical and performance skills to make that connection. The key will be its ability to come up with fresh material as captivating and sublimely silly as its current chart-topper.

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