Just outside of Windsor, Ontario you will find an Italian hall which is normally used for wedding receptions. On August 17, it was turned into a haven of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers thanks to the Canada South Blues Society. None of the 1500 in attendance had a bad view of the stage thanks to the great site lines throughout the gigantic hall. Of course, the 3 large video screens assisted for those who were extremely far from the stage. For some reason the sound didn't carry well, it seemed to hang by the stage like an invisible cloud of smoke.
Hamilton's Rita Chiarelli opened with a 60-minute set that featured heart-warming, bayou-inspired songs about desire, romantic obsession and love lost. The good Italian girl is a seasoned musician who first sang professionally at 15. She developed a loyal following by touring Europe throughout the 1990s. She must have been more excited about seeing former Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman, than most of the audience as she forgot the lower portion of her stage clothes at the hotel. Not the type that embarrasses easily, Chiarelli publicly thanked her storming guitar player, Pappa John King, for having an extra pair of pants that she was able to borrow. It was no surprise when most of her set was comprised of songs from her most recent and successful CD, Breakfast at Midnight. Miraculously, "I Can Change For You" was performed with more intensity than on the disc. During the tune, Chiarelli desperately pleaded to hold on to a love until the hall was filled with a gale-forced wind and her vocal chords ached. The entire audience felt her pain emotionally and physically. She used the number to segue into the acoustic portion of her show which included an unusual tribute to Elvis simply called "Tupelo". Her band returned to back her on the hard-driving "Highway 61" and standard closer "The Night Time Is The Right Time". Here, Rita put down her guitar so that she could concentrate fully on delivering Janis Joplin inspired vocals. "Who says they don't make steel in Hamilton?" proclaimed promoter Ted Boomer as he welcomed her back to the stage for an encore. Then he also brought out surprise special guest, Johnnie Johnson who has recently been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He forced her band to perform "How Blue Can You Get" in a real blues vein while he was rollicking on the 88s.
Set changes can take forever and even when they are quick and smooth, they are the dullest portion of any concert. So the cure was to keep the music going during the intermission. Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame inductee, Bob Seely tickled the ivories to the amazement of the crowd. Then Johnnie returned and the 2 piano greats shared a duet.
Bill Wyman doesn't need an introduction but you might be interested to know how he came to play the blues after his tenure with the Stones. In a recent interview in the London Free Press, Wyman is quoted: "The reason I left was because I didn't see anything new happening in the future. I realized if we played for another 10 years I'd still be playing Jumping Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women, Street Fighting Man and so on until we packed up. I didn't see any reason for doing that any more just for the money or anything. That's why I left, just to do things I wanted to do, instead of things I was obliged to do." So 3 years after retiring from the world's greatest rock and roll band, Wyman joined forces with guitarist/songwriter Terry Taylor. They wished to form a new band which would play a mixture of jazz and blues - the music that first inspired Bill to pick up the bass. He recruited several of England's top musicians and called them the Rhythm Kings. To date, they have released 4 albums within 5 years and each has rated exceptionally on European charts.
The 64-year-old took the stage looking like Austin Powers and ripped into "Let The Good Times Roll" with his stunning 11 piece band. Bill knows his non-flamboyant place is on the bass. As such his talented ensemble included no less than 3 guitarists, 2 horns, 2 pianists, 2 sexy backup singers and a drummer. The band's set was comprised primarily of blues, swing, R&B and soul standards. Michael Sanchez (who replaced Georgie Fame when denied entry to Canada) took over the vocals on the 50s style rocker "Jitterbug Boogie". The pianist was as vibrant as his candy-apple-red suit and was reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. Next Albert Lee (formerly with Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton) wailed on vocals and guitar on "Jump, Jive and Wail". Background singer Janice Hoyte emerged to the front of the stage and belted out some deep soul on "Love Letters". To everyone's astonishment, Johnnie Johnson returned and jammed the blues with the band while trading licks with jazz guitarist Martin Taylor on "Route 66". Then backing vocalist Beverley Skeete did a Ruth Brown tune "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin". Gary Brooker (ex Procol Harum) led a raucous version of "Mystery Train" before things culminated with "Breaking Up The House" and "Tear It Up". After the set, Bill accommodated many requests for autographs and photographs.
Normally, tours of this stature make obvious stops in Toronto and Detroit. Thanks to the Canada South Blues Society, the Wyman tour bypassed these mega-metropolis' in favour of London and Windsor. Be sure to attend the CSBS Christmas show at the Ciociaro with Johnnie Johnson.
For further information about these artists, contact: www.ritachiarelli.com and www.billwyman.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.