Concert Review: Blues Festival hits Texas

melwaiters

11th Annual Blues Festival
Verizon Theater
Grand Prairie, Texas
February 14, 2015

Funk, soul, R&B and of course, healthy heaping of the blues were enjoyed by an eager crowd of 3,000+ when the 11th Annual Blues Festival touched down (and turnt up) at Grand Prairie’s Verizon Theater on Saturday Night.

Overall, it could’ve been a little tighter; with 7 acts scheduled to play over four hours, it didn’t take long for the timing to go awry and, at times, the instruments eclipsed the vocals in volume. But those kinks belonged to whoever managed the venue and soundchecks, not the skilled players on the bill. Headliner Mel Waiters hit the stage close to 10:30 when he should’ve had more time than the prior act, Sir Charles (more on him later). He was noticably hoarse, likely due from a string of back-to-back dates. He was greeted with a standing ovation and was in good spirits when he ‘dipped and dropped it’ for the ladies down front in his crimson suit and plunged into “The Smaller The Club, The Bigger The Party,” “Got My Whiskey” and “Hole In The Wall.” Despite his laryngitis, the San Antonio native kept the crowd moving thanks to his 7-piece band and the aid of one of his background singers, Chandra Calloway, who took center stage to allow him a breather with her spirited version of Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman.”

Like Waiters, the remaining acts could  definitely teach the younger set of soul artists a thing or two about stage presence, audience engagement and what true musicianship is: The 79-year-old Clarence Carter, for example, also suited in booted with red and black, played and sang at the middle of center stage and never once needed the chair set out for him. He kept the audience (mostly couples who were 40+) cracking up at his self-effacing ‘unlucky in love’ tales (“Everytime a song made a million dollars, one of my ex-wives got the money”), his, er, frisky nature (“When I’m with my woman, I put one leg toward the East, one toward the West… then I get in the middle and do my best”) and faithful renditions of “Patches,” “Slip Away” and, of course, “Strokin.'”

Mississippi’s Theodis Ealy was the saltiest performer of the set, thanks to his mechanical humping props on-stage, constant hip-thrusting, raunchy chatter about “big-legged women with juicy c**tchies” and the sex advice that he got from a grandmother that became his signature hit, “Stand Up In It.” FL’s Benny Lattimore regaled with his playful banter and to-the-point hybrid of soul and blues, earning sing-alongs for “My Give a Damn Gave Out,” “Straighten It Out” and  his hilarious ode to the oldheads, “I May Be an Old Dog, But I Still Know How To Bury A Bone”: “Those young guys might be able to go all night, but you don’t need to if you know how to do it right!”

Shirley Brown, the Original Side-Chick Checker, opened with Aretha’s “Respect” and sang about “Too Much Candy,” keeping “One Eye Open” and yes, “Woman to Woman.” “Lookin’ good Pimpin’,” she told a flirtatious male fan who preened for her down front….until his woman spoke up. “I didn’t tell him to come up here Girl—-I got tricks and I can get him if you don’t watch out!” Well damn.

Sir Charles’ set seemed to meander on too long (?!), which needlesslycut into headliner Waiter’s slot, but fans still enjoyed hits like “Is Anybody Lonely” and “Better or Worse” before he alternately praised the Lord and threatened to impregnate half the audience (“Dallas got some fine women up in here, bout’ to be some babies runnin’ round this *expletive*”). TK Soul was the most energetic of the bunch, engaging the entire front row with the Electric Slide dance along with “The Zydeco Bounce,” “Back In the Day,” “Try Me Tonight” and “It Ain’t Cheatin’ if You Don’t Get Caught.” Topping off the soulful extravaganza was the willingness of each act to take pictures and sign CDs after their sets: “I’ll be signing legs, breasts, kissing babies and whatever else needs to be kissed!” promised TK. And what more could fans expect than that?

By Melody Charles

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