Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

I’ll Take You There

Posted in Music by bourdaghs on the June 11th, 2012

We moved to Chicago in 2007, and I’ve made it to the Blues Festival every summer since. It’s become an increasingly melancholic event: the artists I looked forward to seeing every year have been falling away, one by one. Pinetop Perkins, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Hubert Sumlin…. Every festival, it seems, another familiar face is missing.

We arrived in Grant Park late yesterday afternoon for this year’s edition. The weather was hot and sunny, the crowd huge and (as always) a crazy quilt of humanity–all ages, sizes, colors, styles and shapes. On top of everything, the Blues Festival provides some of the most intriguing people-watching you’ll find anywhere on earth.

We caught the last couple of numbers from Patrice Moncell’s set. The Mississippi-native unleashed a version of “Strokin'” so ribald it would have made Chaucer blush. She followed it up with a sweet jazz number that proved she could also be a finely nuanced singer. Very nice.

This was followed by a tribute to the late Koko Taylor, with strong sets by Melvia “Chick” Rodgers, Jackie Scott, and Nora Jean Brusco, all backed by the reunited Koko Taylor Blues Machine Band. Rodgers closed the set with a high-energy take on “I’m a Woman,” Taylor’s rebuttal to Muddy Waters.

Finally came the headliner: Chicago legend Mavis Staples, now Dr. Staples thanks to the honorary degree Columbia College awarded her a couple of weeks ago. Backed by a crackerjack three-piece band and a trio of excellent backing singers, Staples put on a remarkable show. I can’t think of another musical performer who brings the same degree of moral authority to the stage with her. Highlights included “The Weight” (which turned into a tribute to the late Levon Helm), “We’ll Get Over,” “Freedom Highway” (including some pointed political commentary about contemporary racism and Barack Obama), and the title track from her marvelous 2010 album, “You Are Not Alone.” She also tossed off a seemingly impromptu cover of Koko Taylor’s signature number, “Wang Dang Doodle.” Staples closed the evening with a thrilling “I’ll Take You There,” the massive crowd standing and singing along.

Dave Hoekstra wrote a nice review of the evening for the Sun-Times. And here’s some fan video from Mavis Staples’ set. Note the way she speaks between numbers: even her spoken introductions overflow with musicality.

One Response to 'I’ll Take You There'

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  1. Master Moaner said,

    on June 21st, 2012 at 4:14 am

    hey nice peice