The Word's music draws on the sounds of Southern worship, but the band itself worships at the altar of jam. Stretching two sets over more than three hours, the five-piece group touched on a handful of gospel classics, but its sound has more to do with the Allman Brothers than Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
When the Word's other members picked Robert Randolph to play pedal steel on their self-titled 2000 album, he was virtually unknown outside the devotional circuit. Seven years later, he is arguably its marquee player, acknowledged as a contemporary master of his chosen instrument. Seated at the front of the Electric Factory's stage Friday, he dazzled the crowd with his technique. There were few words sung and even fewer spoken, but Randolph's pedal was the voice the songs needed, swooping and soaring with the expressiveness of an opera singer.