The Queen of the Blues has been at this a long time, after all, and her health isn’t what it was.
Fortunately she was wise enough to off-set her stiff footed stomping with that old diva’s trick of filling the stage with beautiful, talented men – the Koko Taylor Blues Machine carried her through with some gorgeous, supportive playing -- but even with all that support she still found room to berate them, like a babushka, when they cut off one of her tunes too quickly instead of tamping it down to something mellow she could speak over for awhile. Reviews from the Blues Festival a few weekends back were tepid, so it was expected, but a disappointment still.
Love you, Koko. Hope you’re feeling better soon.
Lonnie Brooks, on the other hand, who opened for Koko (and opened it wide), brought it home for the people. Great playing, great delivery – the kind that makes you dance in ways before unknown – like a body possessed. New moves with each new tune, as Lonnie sang his way through the great Blues trinity:
- Gettin’ none.
- Gettin’ some.
- Gettin’ ready to get some more.
Brooks was ushered in by his son, Wayne Baker Brooks, and a fellow named Andre Howard on bass – all told these good men held this girl close and cradled her for close to two happy hours. Yes, please. I’ll take me some more of that.
The biggest disappointment of the night was the audience, of course. I say “of course” because we were in the Western suburbs. This was my first experience on the Morton Arboretum’s Concert Lawn, not a bad venue, but big and broad like these lawns generally are, without any retaining walls or landforms to capture the applause and excitement into the kind of loop that feeds the crowd into further frenzy. So what little expression could be eked out of our mostly-white, mostly-suburban, mostly-middle-aged brethren dissipated on the air.
But the blues wouldn’t be the blues if there wasn’t something to kvetch about. The cursed 17-year cicadas kept their distance after all, and when the sun finally set the fireflies came out, punctuating the cool air with their brief bursts of flame.
Not a bad night.