Paranorm, Alan, Zoe, and I are headed to Anaheim tonight to see if Sly shows up. Alan was there at his last performance (aside from the Grammys last year) in 1987. In his words, “Can’t be as bad as that was…he says…as a challenge.”
The OC Register article
The LA Times article
I’ll report back the goings on.
Well, he showed, and it was worth the trek to Anaheim. Smiling, together, and funky, Sylvester Stewart was on stage at the Anaheim House of Blues last night with his sister Vet‘s band, The Family Stone. Sly’s contribution was brief, and clearly not choreographed, but it was damn good to see him happy and having fun on stage with family.
He had a reputation to uphold, and we felt like we were getting what we came for as we stood on the floor bobbing to the funk DJ at 10:30 for what was originally a 9pm start time. Shortly thereafter the curtains opened and The Family Stone charged into Dance To The Music with Cynthia Robinson (the only original Sly and The Family Stone member in the group, though sax player Pat Rizzo made a special appearance) leading the charge with her “Get up and dance to the music!” that starts the original. Off to an authentic start!
Vet’s band did a good job with most of the Sly cuts, and seemed themselves to be looking in the wings to see when Sly might make an appearance. Vet takes the main vocal much of the time and I actually kinda dug her singing Sly’s parts; she’s got reverence for the material but still makes it her own. Sly’s niece is the second female vocal. Her voice is show-off strong and for my money sounded best on Hot Fun In The Summertime. The male lead was “Grammy award-winner Sky”-something and to be honest I wasn’t into him. He sounded good on some of the opening cuts but by the time he took a stab at If You Want Me To Stay…well, I didn’t. No offense, dude. It’s a thankless job, standing in for Sly in front of a crowd of Sly fans desperate for the man to return to top shape. Don’t take it personal. You’re not exactly rockin’ like this:
Damn. That footage brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw it. But I digress…
After about an hour of The Family Stone doing Sly’s hits, Sly came out of stage left with a very young girl I was relieved to learn was his daughter. She jumped behind the piano and played one of those songs all kids learn when they’re learning piano, which would have been uncomfortable if you didn’t have Sly standing there watching her with proud papa eyes. She also increased her cred when she grabbed the mic after and belted “thank you for lettin’ me be myself” instead of just saying thanks. She was incredibly comfortable and confident on stage, definitely some star power in her blood. She playfully pounded her dad on the back as she left the stage, too, suggesting a real connect between her and her pops. It was sweet. Alan snapped this photo of Sly and his daughter (whose name I didn’t catch):
Sly then introduced another daughter (“I make babies,” he joked), Phun (mother is Cynthia Robinson), who dropped a verse about her mom and pops while Sly took to the keyboards. Alan grabbed this bit of footage from the small cam, check out Sly bobbing behind the keyboard while Phun raps:
Sly on the keys was my favorite part of the evening. He looked natural and like he was having fun, and sounded, well, like Sly.
The band started into Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Myself and he stuck around for a few vocal blurts here and there, but it quickly devolved into way too many folks on stage and Sly jetted for the exit. The crowd started chanting “WE WANT SLY” and Phun came back to chide them to stop. Her urgency made it seem like it was bumming him out. Stop we did.
The band then wandered into my least favorite parts of the show, a long version of Thank You…, followed by the dub version Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa, then Somebody’s Watchin’ You (to which they added an unfortunate System of A Down-esque mosh part), and Little Sister’s “You’re The One” (I didn’t put together that Vet was not only Sly’s little sister but also Little Sister, Alan had to clue me in on the way home).
[above photo from Monday’s OC Register article]
Sly returned to the stage for a few seconds for I Want To Take You Higher, then I think it was the band’s job to jam long enough for him to be half-way to the hotel before anyone left the club.
Sly is 62, clearly has a back problem, was wearing sneaks with a black, sequined track suit, a bejeweled Superman medallion, and a blond mohawk wig on top of a skin cap. Still, I was happy as hell to see Sly up on stage having a blast with his kids and sister, lucid and comfortable, smiling and happy. Sly’s not going to come back and make a record like There’s A Riot Goin’ On. He’s not going to come back and put on performances like the Ohio State talent show above. But it’s alright. He’s surrounded by family who are taking good care of him.
Thanks for showing us you’re ok, Sly. Be well.
[Alan’s coverage of the event can be found here.]