Monday, August 16, 2010

Sheila E.: too funky! - Yoshi's (SF)

Sheila E.Yoshi’s, San Francisco. August 15, 2010, - the 9pm show. …”I don’t know what I’m thinking. 52 years old – up here singin’ and dancin’”, said an exhausted Sheila E. following a wickedly funky version of Oliver’s House, Sunday night. “I haven’t played that song like THAT since 1984”, she added.

That aside, was one of several exchanges that left the audience at Yoshi’s San Francisco feeling like we were in Sheila’s living room receiving our own special show. And just when you may have thought she and her six–piece band couldn’t possibly maintain the kind of energy they expended on Oliver’s House for another song, they managed to do it for another HOUR! 

She encouraged the sold out audience at Yoshi’s San Francisco to dance. And dance we did. How could you not? Her play list had nary a slow song – other than her Country inspired tune (Glorious Train) – which turned into a revival at about 155 beats per minute.

Her band included Cat Gray (keyboards), Raymond McKinley (bass), Bobby G. (guitar), Garrett Perkins (sax), Rick Jordan (drums), and Brandon Coleman (keys). 

I came away assured that Sheila E commands respect as a band leader. She is decisive and funky. She keeps a show moving. The players in the band seemed very engaged in every note being played and they all seemed to be having fun. Likewise, as members of the 400 plus attending the show, Sheila kept us laughing, creating a light atmosphere.

I never take notes at a show because I just want to enjoy the show – so my recall on set lists can be shady. Just as fun as the complete songs the band played - were impressive “turn arounds” and tight transitions that have been a part of Sheila’s set for years.

They played:

• Leader of the Band (This is a Latin inspired song that will appear on Sheila's next album. It was a funky way to start the show.)
• Oliver’s House
• A Love Bizarre
• A new song that written for Sheila by Prince. (She said she was playing it live for the first time tonight.)
• Get on the Boat (too funky. Raymond McKinley’s bass playing is perfect to my ears. He is ‘in there’.)
• Glorious Train
• I Made It
• Pop Life (what a GREAT song to put in the set! Everybody sang along).
• Holly Rock
• (encore) Glamorous Life.
• (encore) America

For the encore – Bobby G. opened with a searing solo, pulled out his cell phone and made a call (during the solo!).

Brownmark (he looks exactly the same) from the Revolution was brought out to play bass, and Sheila’s brother Juan hit the stage for a percussion solo. Sheila told the audience they would just jam for a bit. She told the drummer to “play fast and don’t move”, and Bobby G. ripped into Prince’s America. Sheila took off her seven inch heels and a funk fest ensued with Sheila and Bobby standing up on the edge of the stage.

Sheila’s energy is rhythm. It runs through her. And she seems to thrive on the love being reciprocated from the audience and from her band mates. In particular – I thought Bobby G. added tremendously to the overall positive vibe of her stage show with his energetic playing, not to mention dancing, singing and keeping the crowd up.

What is more amazing is that Sheila admitted the band never practiced together. They had a “day of show sound check” (and that is with a new drummer (Jordan), a new keyboard player, and Perkins on sax).McKinley said before the show, “…just trying to remember everything.”

Jordan in his first gig with Sheila E. more than held his own. McKinley, Gray and Bobby G. – who have worked with Sheila for years – kept contact with Jordan and seemed to over-exaggerate their next lick to help keep Jordan in-step with the direction.

It worked perfectly.

What this validates to me – even more strongly than I had previously thought – is that there is a lot to be said for loose structure in performance. Many of the best moments were ‘off the cuff’ improvisations by talented musicians who were ‘in the moment’.

As Sheila brought selected guests from the audience to come on stage to dance for her, the band jammed. I looked around the full house and saw nothing but smiling faces.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that last night’s 9pm show at Yoshi’s (SF) immediately moved into the top-five all-time shows seen*. It was THAT good.

It was beyond good.

It was phenomenal.

*That top-five?
1. Prince – Purple Rain Tour – Cow Palace – SF
2. D’Angelo – Voodoo Tour – Paramount Theater – Oakland
3. Prince – Sacramento Memorial Auditorium
4. Tony! Toni! Tone’ @ Boni Boyer tribute - Gregory’s Inner Circle – Oakland
5. …and now Sheila E. at Yoshi’s last night.

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