Sheila E. at B Kings:
"Ever since Aretha Franklin there's always been an Aretha Franklin rip-off somewhere on the charts doing a style she basically perfected."
"...but when I can focus on Tal and her fresh big cans tearing it up I feel more free to openly express my appreciation."
I also saw a chick named Nikki Hill (who I'll get back to in a minute), but I have to first mention seeing Sheila E for the first time since Prince died. The last time she'd played with Prince was at Madison Square Garden, so that was emotional. For a lot of people. Sheila cried for what the heterosexual male in me thought was a long time. Right there in front of all of us; but of course she killed. She's a real-deal performer.
And so was this Nikki Hill I mentioned earlier. I knew nothing about her before the show. Never expected to even be there an hour before it started, but when she went on stage...man, I liked her. She's young, with nice long legs and real bright eyes and a lot of electric vivacity on stage.
In 2017 its probably racist for me to say this (somehow its gotta be, right?), but I expected her to be more of an R & B singer. Or maybe that's just what I wanted her to be 'cause that's my favorite genre. But instead she's more of a roots-Rock artist. The genuine, old school stuff like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Why someone her age would be into that I don't know, but she was awesome at it. So maybe that's why. And the greatness was heightened by her contradiction of my expectations. I saw her and was like "Oh man, now I'm gonna get my live R &B." But instead she just rocked the house.
Still, she did do one slow number. Slow R & B in which the band brought the volume down and she stepped to the mic stand with eyes that slowly closed and cupped the mic between her palms in soulful, meditative, expression.
Very feminine expression, despite the forcefulness of her personality, which is probably why I was so attracted to the stage. And not intimidated to get so close. Had it been a man getting as emotional or expressive as she was, I'd have probably had to have stepped back. Wilson Pickett or Jackie Wilson or 6' 6" Otis Redding pushing themselves to the emotional edge is not something I'd necessarily stand next to. Who knows what a guy like that's likely to do? I can enjoy that as much from row 10 or so. And if they should break down altogether? Come on man, toughen up. What're you--a bitch?
But a woman draws different things out of me. Different emotions. They're easier and nicer to listen to. I can let my guard completely down and feel a natural empathy for them. I root for them more. A lot more. And if they lose their shit? They're just gonna cry. Least the one's that I like.
Prince used to always surround himself with nice babes. And now Jeff Beck always seems to hire female side...people. I like it. It changes the dynamic. Without Tal Wilkenfeld or Rhonda Smith on stage we Jeff Beck fans are just a thousand or so dried-up geezers with a semi-homosexual Punky's Whips hard-on for our guitar-God. But when I can focus on Tal and her fresh big cans tearing it up I feel like I've still got some spunk in my junk and I'm more free to openly express my appreciation.
An old girlfriend once told me I have the musical taste of an 18 year old black girl. Course she told me that something like 20 years ago, so now that black girl would likely have 2 kids and a pair of titties hanging to her knees; but my musical taste has still pretty-much stayed the same. For the most part I like to listen to chicks sing R & B. Usually big heavy-set black chicks; but that's just a generalization. I don't know if its racist (I'm sure in 2017 it must be--somehow!) to say that I think black women are the best singers, but I think they are. Or maybe I should say they sound better. I prefer the tone of their voices, which I think is usually richer than other women's voices. More full-throated and...more character. I can almost always tell when its a black person singing on the radio or on the other end of the phone. Even if I've never seen them. I think most people can do that.
I really respect Angie Stone and her songwriting. I think she deserves way more recognition then she gets and like the way she's more of a mid-range singer as opposed to that Mariah Carey/Patti Labelle style that's always singing/swinging for the high fences.
Of all the female singers today, I'd say Lalah Hathaway has the nicest tone. I'm not saying I think she's the best artist--or even my favorite; but I like her tone the best. And that's saying something. Her voice makes me envision a plush red-velvet couch in the VIP with my head laid back, a Johnny Blue in my left hand and a handful of some silky stripper's hair in my right as she slowly bobs her head on my knob at about 80 bpm. That's the kind of peace and joy that generates love.
I like the first couple Alicia Key's records and obviously the first half-dozen or so Aretha Franklin records. Those are the template right there. For 45+ years and counting. Ever since Aretha Franklin there's always been an Aretha Franklin rip-off somewhere on the charts doing a style she basically perfected. But no one's ever bested her in her prime. Back in the 1960's/early 70's she still had a real feminine softness juxtaposed against an exuberant, youthful, Jesus-fueled confidence. The sky was the limit for her. And us. Nothing but possibilities for her people and our country as a whole.
But now everything sucks.
Anyway, after that Nikki Hill show last week I got the chance to meet her. Poor girl had to shmooze with me, then politely dismiss herself so she could race to the back of the club where she was selling CD's. She seems to run her own show both on stage and off, so she can't be too short with these would-be fans. Gotta press the flesh a bit. But you always gotta be selling too. Can't forget to pay the bills. It seems like a lot to juggle. Being on the road and in the music business in 2017...that's gotta be a hard lifestyle.
At one point that Nikki Hill posed for a picture with me and then--at her suggestion, said "Lets do one more." I couldn't believe she took the time to do that. She has bright eyes. Full lips. A real warm smile and great caramel skin. I couldn't help but think about all that as my middle-aged, Rheumatoid Arthritis-with-the-torn-Achilles tendon-ass limped home from the club.
"Man, wouldn't it be great to play for her."
"You could never play for her Lodo--her guitarists were awesome."
"I know, I'm just saying. ...Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could spend some more time with her. Like, help her promote her gigs or something."
"My God Lodo, listen to you. That girl's half your age if you're lucky. Look at that picture of you two--she's young and fine after 2 hours of performing and you look like grandpa on his way to dialysis."
No sooner did I complete that thought than all the energy suddenly escaped my body. And legs. I nearly collapsed into a fetal position right there on the sidewalk like Marge Simpson sneaking off to the library to cry.
But almost as quickly, I re-gathered myself. Remembered who and what I was. Tightened my ankle brace, straightened my back. Did my best not to limp as I headed home.
"Jesus Lodo--toughen up. What're you some high-school bitch?"