Monday, October 7, 2013



Rufus performing a show with Sly Stone was a great idea.
Only it didn’t work.
Not at all.
The 8PM show started at 9:15. Standing in place for an over an hour in a hot, crowded setting, watching an agitated pair nearly come to blows, various thoughts ran through my head. “If they can’t give you a seat for $45, can’t a world class venue at least turn the air conditioning up?”  And, “Can’t they afford an opening band?”  But most troubling was, “There must be a problem with Sly.”
And there was.
Coming out an hour plus into what had been a kick-ass old school R&B show with Rufus sounding ulta- tight, Sly looked  like E.T.  Sporting a huge blonde (apparent) wig, he spoke in a low, gravelly, virtually inaudible voice.  Rambling about race, he sprinkled the N-Word, but was pretty much beyond comprehension.  Tinkering with his keyboards, which just wouldn’t work, he was amused at first, but grew more frustrated and agitated as he wasn’t getting much sound on it. A sound guy, looking like a deer in headlights, kept coming out to try to help, as did Rufus’ keyboardist.
Sly had 3 audience members come out to sing as he couldn’t. “I can’t hit the high notes. I need tricks,” he said sadly. An Asian girl looked moved to tears to be up there with her idol, singing far better than he could at age 70.
I also felt almost moved to tears watching this pathetic spectacle.
Keyboards were replaced, nothing much happened, and Sly rambled some more with much of it inaudible. Growing more and more frustrated and angry, he finally after two failed attempts at his songs announced, “Let’s come back in 5 minutes after we fix this shit.”
Rufus kept playing in spite of it, finally called for that much needed tech break.  Seventy or so percent of the placed cleared out in spite of Sly announcing he’d be back, and nobody seemed to “fix that shit.”
Finally Rufus returned, jammed on a Sly hit, waiting for a Sly sighting. Only he was nowhere to be seen. They jammed, glancing backstage, jammed some more, glancing backstage, and finally in frustration said, “That’s all.” Yes, there was a Sly Stone classic being performed with Sly in the building but not on stage for a single moment of it.
The final tally was Sly on stage for two disastrous songs and a quick exit.
This fiasco was even sadder, because Rufus by themselves would have been a GREAT R&B show minus the delays, distractions and the disappointment of seeing Sly in this state. That a classy venue had tech difficulties of this magnitude made it even worse. And starting a show an hour fifteen late is unconscionable as well, with hundred of great NYC musicians who would have been honored to open for an icon and would have played for chump change.
I would tell you in a second to go see Rufus any day of the week. I actually felt sorry for them to have been victimized by this. The audience loved THEM. That the crowd walked out dejected, depressed and disappointed after a performance as great as theirs was truly unfair to them.
And as a lifelong Sly Stone fan, I walked out shaking my head, deeply saddened the entire endless train ride home. For his wasn’t a performance. It was an anti-drug public service announcement.
The fiasco we witnessed was truly, memorably, tragic.
Evan Ginzburg

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