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Chicago, Illinois. Home of the Blues. Or at least home
of electric Blues music as we know it today. The House of Blues.
Isaac Tigrett's chain of blues clubs in Cambridge, West Hollywood,
New Orleans, and Atlanta. Would the two mesh? Many people have
ventured an answer to this question since Isaac announced his
intentions of opening a club in Chicago. After visiting the Chicago
club its opening weekend, this author answers with an enthusiastic,
"YES". Critics have complained it's not a true blues club
because many of its acts are not blues acts at all, while others are
worried it's going to squeeze out some of Chicago's smaller more
traditional blues clubs by stealing away their acts. It's true that
not all the acts at the House of Blues are blues acts and this is
what's going to prevent it from killing the smaller clubs. What it
is really in competition with is the smaller theaters. Only time
will answer all these questions and concerns.
House of Blues - Chicago
The Blues Brothers, James Brown, Joe Walsh, Magic
Slim and the Teardrops, Sam Moore, and more!
Even before it opened, the club got some free publicity courtesy
of the Chicago archdiocese of the Catholic Church. Apparently they
were upset with the club's logo. The church claimed it looked too
much like one of their own symbols. As a catholic myself, I've seen
the church's and I've seen the clubs. Yes they are similar, but
nothing worth making a stink over. Interestingly this same logo is
used at other House of Blues locations apparently without any
criticism from their local archdioceses. Boston, Los Angeles, and
most importantly New Orleans all have large catholic populations,
yet as far as I know none of them complained. Interesting.... Always
the gracious visitor, the House of Blues has modified their original
design specifically for the Chicago location. Just more free
advertising for the grand opening if you ask me.
The opening of the club was actually two days, Saturday, November
23rd and Sunday, November 24. Saturday was a Media Preview Party,
while Sunday was the official "Grand Opening". The Dude on
the Right and I attended the Sunday evening performance. We arrived
at Marina City several hours before the show began, and after being
greeted by several smiling, cheery faces we found ourselves
wandering around the club. On the main level you've got the
Restaurant and Gift Shop. The restaurant wasn't open yet, but I hope
to return and sample their menu as it looks to be good. The ceiling
featured the traditional House of Blues plaster relief casts of many
Blues legends. The gift shop has anything you could ever want with
the House of Blues on it. Up some stairs you find the
"juke-joint" opera house on the second level with
"sky" boxes on the third and fourth levels. The entire
club is decorated in original folk or "outsider" art by
several Mississippi Delta artists. Tigrett describes the club as
"Chicago's new Opera House", which will exist to showcase
America's authentic opera, blues and blues-influenced music. A perk
of the opening night was an open bar and some hors d'oeuvres, it's
just too bad it was a Sunday night and me and the Dude on the Right
had to pretend to go to work the next day. Some folks didn't have
this problem or didn't care. A free bar is bad sometimes, when not
everyone is partaking to the fullest extent.
Anyway, the show began about 8:30 with Magic Slim and the Teardrops.
This power trio's set was the most traditional blues act of the
evening. Slim's finger picking style led the group through several
traditional blues tunes for their half hour set. Short show, short
review, and it's one thumb up for Magic Slim and his Teardrops.
About a half an hour later The Blues Brothers band invaded the
stage. Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Donald
"Duck" Dunn, Matt "Guitar" Murphy,
"Blue" Lou Marini, Paul "The Shiv" Shaffer,
along with a trumpet and trombone player I didn't recognize and our
first guest of the evening, Joe Walsh. The boys lit into that Booker
T & the MG's classic, "Green Onions". A little while
into the show our protagonists, the '90's Blues Brothers, Dan
Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, slide out on to the stage. A
short while in, Aykroyd stops it all to chastise the media in the
balcony from taking pictures and video taping. Apparently they
wanted the music to go only to the folks in attendance. Interesting
policy... The music picked back up and the band headed into the home
town favorite, Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago". The
band then took on the alliteration of "Flip, Flop, and
Fly" rather well and it was on to our next guest, Sergi Vernof
of the former Soviet Union, who joined the band for "Messing
with the Kid".
|Joe Walsh joins the band!
Mr's Aykroyd and Belushi departed the stage and left Chicago
favorite Lonnie Brooks to lead an Aykroyd/Belushi-less band through
"You're Using Me", while he entertained the crowd by
playing his guitar with his teeth and tongue and while he shook
hands with the audience and had a drink, all nearly at the same
time! Lonnie is always the showman.
As well as being the opening of the House of Blues, the band also
announced that it was Duck Dunn's birthday
and a short "Happy
Birthday" was in order. It was then on to Charlie Musselwhite
joining for a few songs, including one dedicated to the late John
Belushi, "She Caught the Katy". Spotlighted by Aykroyd and
Musselwhite engaging in quite a harp duel during this one, for me it
was the horn section that made it for this reviewer. And the guests
kept coming as the young Kenny Wayne Shepherd joined the group for
"Born in Chicago", while Paul Shaffer "directed"
the many musicians on stage through this number, which featured
Aykroyd, Belushi, and Musselwhite on harmonicas.
Joe Walsh returned as the evening continued for his classic,
"Rocky Mountain Way", that featured his trademark mouth
guitar tricks, and if you wondered where that whole thing started,
let's just say Joe stole it from Jeff Beck, but that's a story for
another day. Eddie Floyd joined the boys for a run through
"634-5789," a number I can only remember if I sing it.
Eddie leaves and is replaced by Sam Moore wearing a cool
"Less IS Moore" vest. Dan and Jim join Sam on his classic
"Soul Man" to end the show with a quick encore, joined by
Skunk Baxter and his plexi-glass guitar for versions of the Motown
gem "Money" and the Elvis classic "Viva Las
Vegas". They wound down with "The Theme from Peter Gunn"
to close out this portion of the night.
All in all this was an incredible assemblage of musicians that
doesn't turn up together very often. If you ever get the chance to
see these Blues Brothers don't pass them up. Me, I'd love to see
some of these guys in smaller groups in a more controlled fashion,
but to see them all together, the sum is greater than its parts. Two
Thumbs Up for the "The Good 'ole Blues Brothers Boys Band"
(watch the movie if you don't get that reference!)
But, the night was not over. An HOUR and a HALF later the curtain
finally goes up on the James Brown band. Let see if I got that count
right, 4 horns, 2 guitars, 2 basses, 3 percussionists, 1 keyboard,
and 5 backup singers. I think that's enough for at least two bands
and some change, but this is JB, he can have a big a band as he
wants. Actually, though, I believe they are called the James Brown
Opening up, the "orchestra" played for 15 minutes and
finally the MAN arrives on stage. The Godfather of Soul. The Hardest
Working Man in Show Business. Soul Brother Number 1. JB. JB. JB.
James Brown himself. He leads the band, or that was a orchestra we
decided, through "Cold Sweat". For such a large group they
are tight as anybody. Me, I've read that if James hears a mistake he
hands out monetary fines to his band, but maybe that's just a rumor!
I'm glad the Dude on the Right doesn't use this policy, or else he
could fund his life off of his staff!. Now, iff there weren't enough
people on stage, 4 dancers in cheerleading outfits come out for the
next tune, "Livin' in
America". They bounce back on and off stage through most of the
night. JB works his way though a few more funky numbers that had
what was left of the evenings crowd up on their feet and groovin'.
Unfortunately after hearing James tell us repeatedly to "Get
Off that Thing", me and the Dude on the Right, decided we
better "Get Off that Floor" and head home. After standing
for about 6 hours the old feet felt like they were going to fall
off. I only wish the Godfather of Soul wouldn't have taken so long
(come on an Hour and a Half!) to start his show so we could have
stayed for more of it.
Being as late as is was, many of the folks seem to have been gone
for hours, but it still took quite awhile to get our cars back from
the valet parking. I hate to see what its like at the end of a show
when several hundred people are all trying to get their cars back,
for that, we'll just have to wait and see. Oh yea, the Godfather of
Soul/Hardest Working Man in Show Business/Soul Brother Number 1 gets
TWO Thumbs Up from me. I only hope next time his show doesn't start
way after midnight on a school, um, I mean work night!
|The Godfather of Soul
And I'm Mystery Dude, I'll see ya later!