Liberation Hall 2021
Tight but loose, Windy City legends and glorious guests bring the best of their chose genre from there to eternity.
From today’s perspective, the “Chicago Blues Reunion” concept seem like a supergroup whose principal members defined American rock back in the late ’60s, when they were part of such prominent collectives as ELECTRIC FLAG and CANNED HEAT, but Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Corky Siegel and Harvey Mandel became friends much earlier, and getting back together at the turn of a millennium couldn’t come more logical for the veterans. Just as logical felt their return to the home base in 2008 for a benefit show at “Park West” that acclaimed director John Anderson preserved for posterity, and while some of this footage saw the light in 2013’s “Born in Chicago” documentary, watching the actual concert in actual running order results in a raw thrill which won’t ever be gone.
The sensation is on, once Gravenites kicks off the evening with a piece he penned for Janis Joplin, the last-ever song the late singer worked on yet didn’t get to record vocals for, the number that would be titled “Buried Alive In The Blues” and is given a new lease of life here when its writer, aided by Marcy Levy, aka Marcella Detroit, and abetted by the players of similar pedigree, adds emotions to his deadpan delivery and trades licks with Mandel. Then, Goldberg’s ivories come forward for “Born In Chicago” to sweep the blues aside and allow Siegel to wail away on harmonica and, later, to wrap “I Want You, I Hate You Baby” in a dry, if spicy, Cajun, kneel in the heat of the tune and lie on his back, filling the air with fresh merriment.
After the scene is set, Ms. Levy, dressed to the nines, all in black, straps on the guitar to offer the audience her personal view of “Lay Down Sally” which she composed with Eric Clapton, and shears redundant sheen from this classic, rendering the song much more infectious by getting into the groove of Diddley beat. Marcy also helps Barry, giving the cut a lot of soulful gusto and strutting, reclaim “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” and makes “Cry To Me” flutter, taking it from the edge of the stage into the crowd. Meanwhile, the smiling Harvey, accompanied by the peers ensemble and a string trio, leads the way on “Freak Of Dawn” and lines up his fiery solo with flashy ones from Dave Mason on “All Along The Watchtower” that the Englishman, who roars through “Dust My Broom” and casts his own “Feelin’ Alright” to Chicago’s funky winds here, originally did with Jimi Hendrix.
Despite the sorrow-focused performances, frivolous atmosphere prevails here, even on the Nick-voices “Killing Floor” and, of course, on the show’s triumphant finale of “Drinking Wine” which will switch into the ELECTRIC FLAG version from 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, where Gravenites and Goldberg look so young, and back to the present. It’s a genuine celebration of the old artists’ beloved genre – a testament to the vitality of blues.