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House of Blues - Chicago
Grand Opening
with special guests
The Blues Brothers, James Brown, Joe Walsh, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Sam Moore, and more!

November 24, 1996

The House of Blues

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Mystery Dude
Photos by
The Dude on the Right
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.

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.

Magic Slim
Magic Slim
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
Joe Walsh joins The Blues Brother's Band
Joe Walsh joins the band!
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".

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.
James Brown's
James Brown's

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 orchestra.

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.
The "Orchestra"
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
The "Singers"
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.

James Brown
James Brown
The Godfather of Soul
The Godfather of Soul
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!

And I'm Mystery Dude, I'll see ya later!




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