Chicago Blues Festival
Today, I got lucky. In addition to capturing some nice images, I managed to snag media credentials for the the evening performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (aka the Main Stage), which meant I could get up close and personal with Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Theo Huff and his New Agenda Band, and legendary Stax recording artist, William Bell. Bell wrote Born Under a Bad Sign, which was first performed by Albert King and then by everyone else, You Don't Miss the Water, Private Number, Tryin' to Love Two, Everybody Loves a Winner, and countless others. At 75, Bell is still going strong and he looks great.
Tonight was soul night. I loved having the opportunity to see Bell, and he was tremendous with his often mournful songs, but Theo Huff should have been the show closer. For close to an hour, he was grinding, thrusting, and slinking about the stage with a terrific band that included three backup singers, a drummer, guitarist, bass player, two keyboard players, and a large horn section. At one point, a woman from the audience was called up to the stage. As Huff assumed a provocative position, she thrusted dollar bills into his hands, as if Huff were a stripper. Much to my surprise, Huff's music appeals to all generations, including a group of 11-year old girls who were reaching out from the front row to touch what I assume is their newly found Justin Bieber.
Huff doesn't write original material. His is a review right out of the early Seventies. I was very pleased that he did Tyrone Davis' Turn Back the Hands of Time, one of my favorites from that period. As I listened to him and Nellie "Tiger" Travis' performances, I realized how some of the classics were written: People simply put a tape recorder in the bedroom while in Johnny Taylor's words, making love. By way of example, Mr. Sexy Man is one of Travis' better known numbers. For about 12 minutes, Travis repeats the the main lyric, "Hey Mr. Sexy Man, What's Your Name Is" over and over. And then there was Slap Yo' Weave Off, which had some interesting lyrics about hair extensions.
Earlier in the day I had the opportunity to see Big Bill Morganfield, who is Muddy Waters' son. Absolutely terrific. Solid band, talented showman, and great guitar player. He was sitting behind me tonight during Nellie Travis' set. Very nice guy. Next up was Jimmy Johnson, who is still going strong at 88. I also had the opportunity to see Eddie Taylor Jr. do a tribute his dad.
It was a very hot day, with the temperature soaring above 90 degrees. Millennium Park was packed with people lounging on the grass, standing in the aisles, and filling the seats at the Budweiser Crossroads Stage, the Front Porch Stage on top of the Harris Theatre, and the Mississippi Juke Joint. It looks like moving the Bluesfest to Millennium Park worked.
From a photographer's standpoint: I found the sight lines to be very good. Yet, like many photographers present, I thought the lighting for Bell's show was simply horrendous. One photographer I sat with told me it was the worst lighting he has had to work with in years, and this guy travels to festivals all over the country and photographs in clubs and concert halls on an almost daily basis. But somehow we all manage.
Click on a photograph to enlarge it. More photographs will be added over time.
Stax Legend William Bell Opens His Show
William Bell in Shades
Theo Huff: Smooth Moving and Soulful Singing
Theo Fending Off the Ladies
Theo Singing to the Ladies
Nellie "Tiger" Travis Leaning Back to Find That Note
The Bass Player for Nellie "Tiger" Travis
Nellie "Tiger" Travis Pointing to One of the Sexy Men in the Audience
Big Bill Morganfield Playing the Blues and Wearing His Daddy's Watch
The Bass Player for Jimmy Johnson Turned in a Solid Performance and Some Red