Third annual Chi-Town Blues Festival
Arie Crown Theater;
Considering the huge draw and attention the annual summer Blues Fest gets, it’s ironic that the city’s lower-profile Winter’s Delights events have been slightly more interesting lately. Previous lineups have included such showstoppers as Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette, and this year it’s a full-on Southern-soul revue that stars legends such as Willie Clayton, Bobby Rush, Marvin Sease, Mel Waiters, Theodis Ealey, Latimore, Shirley Brown and Bobby “Blue” Bland.
This kind of soul-blues is always misunderstood by everybody except its core audience. Straight-blues fans don’t like it because there’s not enough guitar, while fans of 1960s soul can’t see past the excessive synthesizers. When Rush brought his R&B burlesque show to the now-defunct Reservation Blues club in Wicker Park a few years ago, one puzzled white blues fan was heard commenting: “I don’t know…it’s just a little too disco for me.” But if you can look past the electronics, what’s left is just ’60s-style Southern soul with slicker production and sexually frank lyrics (there’s no way Ealey could have pulled off singing “Let Me Put the Head in It” 40 years ago).
Bland is the unquestioned superstar of the show, although the other acts have built up an impressive résumé. Ealey is the mad genius behind “Stand Up in It” and works the sexually explicit side of the street along with Rush and Sease. Latimore tore up Blues Fest last year with his stage raps, and it’s good to see him again. Clayton, Waiters and Brown are durable soul pros, and this whole lineup promises to turn the Arie Crown Theater into the World’s Largest Juke Joint.—James Porter