SLY STONE PLAYS LIVE IN VEGAS…

From the Apr. 02, 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal:

IN CONCERT: Sly comes in from the cold

Funkster rejoins Family one stiff step at a time

By JASON BRACELIN

Who: Sly and the Family Stone
When: Saturday
Where: Flamingo Showroom
Attendance: 700 (est.)
Grade: C+

The suspense was as thick as the rock ’em sock ’em bass lines, the purring organ, the militant horns and the vague sense of disbelief.

Sly and the Family Stone was working up a sweat without its namesake, digging into tunes with enough force to rattle the ice cubes in your drink.

First came “Dance to the Music,” an exuberant romp with high-stepping guitar licks.

Then came “Everyday People,” an egalitarian anthem that quickens heart rates like caffeine does.

There was “Hot Fun in the Summer Time,” but there was no Sly.

Even the trombonist took a turn at the mic at one point.

Fifteen minutes in, the crowd began to grow as restless as the band’s shifty rhythms.

It looked as if this dry run for a possible reunion tour from this storied bunch would be really dry. Parched, in fact.

But then there he was, all aglitter, looking like a perspiring gemstone, like he’d been covered in an imploded disco ball.

Sporting a bright-red sequined jacket, oversized shades and shiny black boots, the notoriously reclusive Sly Stone materialized like the ghost of R&B’s past, a funk forebear who’s finally come out of hiding.

Ambling onstage with a pump of the fist, Sly leaned into his keyboard hard and gripped the mic with both hands, as if he were strangling the life out of a mortal enemy.

Beginning with a loose-limbed waltz, Sly slowly worked himself into the set, seemingly acknowledging his initial stiffness.

“Is anyone here as old as me?” Sly, 64, asked with a sigh and a chuckle. “It’s been a long day.”

It was an unlikely setting for a comeback like this. The band performed at the cozy Flamingo Showroom after comedian George Wallace’s show.

“Tonight, we’re makin’ history here,” Wallace announced before Sly and Co. took the stage.

That may be a bit of a stretch.

Sly’s voice didn’t shine nearly as bright as his wardrobe, and he was occasionally out of sync with the rest of the band, struggling to keep pace, like a runner with a pulled hamstring.

Still, he seemed to be enjoying the moment, stomping his feet to the beat, gesticulating like a cop directing traffic.

“I want to thank you for the party,” he sang. “I want to thank you for letting me be myself.”

Throughout his relatively brief time on stage, Sly was loose and good-humored, flashing the ever-ready smile of a used car salesman, attempting to explain his long absence from the public eye. Except for a brief appearance at the Grammys last year, Sly hadn’t performed with the band since the late ’80s.

“I been makin’ babies,” he announced.

Back in action, Sly and his band mates roared through standards like “Family Affair” with the emphasis on torque, rather than finesse.

Then there was a climactic “I Want to Take You Higher,” rendered a boisterous jam with some furious sax playing and Sly karate-chopping the air as the crowd danced in the aisles.

Shortly thereafter, Sly would wave goodbye to the crowd a final time while the band played on.

And then this grinning specter swiftly returned to the shadows from whence he came.


From the LAS VEGAS SUN – April 2:

John Katsilometes on how George Wallace aligned the stars to coerce one big star to perform at Flamingo Las Vegas

On April Fools’ Day, George Wallace had the best “gotcha” of all.

“April Fools! Sly Stone showed up!” Wallace said with a loud laugh on Sunday, which was not just April Fools’ Day but a day after Wallace beat the odds by booking the latest version of Sly and The Family Stone for a performance at the Flamingo Las Vegas Showroom. The one-out performance followed Wallace’s usual 10 p.m. (or in this case, 10:30 p.m.) stand-up act at before a packed house of about 500.

Amid widespread skepticism that the performance would not transpire, Stone did show up as promised, sauntering onstage after his band played a four-song medley and moving like a bedazzled praying mantis. Stone, still mischievous at age 64, dressed for the occasion, donning a black sequined suit with black platform shoes and red heels, a red sequined shirt, a black belt with a giant rectangular plate reading “Sly,” a black stocking cap, a neck brace and big, white Dolce & Gabbana shades.

That neck brace was not for show, and is a serious concern. Ken Roberts, Stone’s original manager who worked with the artist from 1968-74, said during the show that for the past two years Stone has had a growth on the back of his neck that has gone untreated because Stone fears visiting a doctor. Thus, he was hunched over like a question mark and appeared uncommonly frail.

Nonetheless, Stone stayed for about half an hour, poking at the synthesizer and running through many of the band’s funk anthems, including “Stand,” “Family Affair,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” “If You Want Me To Stay” and “Higher.” His voice was strong and he seemed charged up at the experience, even moving to the edge of the stage to greet his amped-up fans.

According to Roberts, it was Stone’s first Vegas show since a 1972 appearance at the Las Vegas Convention Center . Stone’s long history of cocaine addiction, erratic behavior and arrests stemming from a combination of the two had reduced him to a virtual recluse for two decades. But Wallace doggedly pursued the artist, primarily through Stone’s sister and backup vocalist Vet , to perform in the same capacity as have Jerry Seinfeld, Cedric the Entertainer, Chris Tucker and Earl Turner, among others, as part of Wallace’s showcase.

Of course, Stone is a special case, and Wallace kept track of the funk master until the rest of the band hit town Saturday afternoon. One source said Wallace spent much of Saturday telling a hung-over Stone jokes to keep him pacified, but Wallace said he was only making sure the performer was “kept comfortable” in his suite.

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith. https://linktr.ee/jaywbabcock

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