I first saw Sandra Hall at Tobacco Road in Miami, Florida back in February 1999. At he time I was really impressed with her and her band, The Hoodoomen, the late Junior Wells' touring band. Based on my past experience, I was looking forward to Sandra's first Minnesota appearance at Legend's Bar & Grill in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
After braving the rainy miserable weather driving to St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, I was alarmed when I walked into Legend's and saw that there was no band or equipment and the show was scheduled to start in less than thirty minutes. After begin seated, our server informed us that Sandra and the band were delayed in getting to St. Cloud because of the nasty weather between St. Cloud and the band's point of departure, Chicago, Illinois. Because of the delayed arrival, the music was not scheduled to begin until 8:00 p.m., assuming the band arrived soon enough to accommodate the delayed schedule. You can only imagine my relief when Sandra Hall and The Hoodoomen arrived on the scene at about 7:15 p.m. and immediately began to set up for the evening show. After deciding to reduce the show from three sets to two, the band hit the stage at 8:30 p.m. to the absolute delight of the large, enthusiastic crowd.
Twin Cities blues fans were disappointed in January when Sandra Hall was forced to cancel her appearance at First Avenue in Minneapolis due to illness. The rescheduled show at Legend's was a bit more of a drive for Twin Cities blues fans, but well worth the trip to see Atlanta's "Empress of the Blues." When Sandra and The Hoodoomen roared into action, despite the unavoidable delays in the start of the show, it was definitely worth the wait.
The Hoodoomen took the stage and warmed up the crowd with three songs including an instrumental opener; Muddy Water's "19 Years Old"; and a cover of "Messin' With the Kid," a tribute to the late Junior Wells. The band lineup was the same as I saw in Miami; Albert Castiglia on vocals and guitar, Willie Samuels on bass, Lowell "L Train" Fletcher on keyboards and Curtis Labon on drums. The band was as tight as ever and represents a strong supporting cast for the vocal power of Sandra Hall.
Once the crowd had been warmed up, Sandra Hall took the stage and proceeded move the large crowd her powerful voice and her sexy ways. Her opening number, "Pump Up Your Love," from her most recent release on Ichiban Records, "One Drop Will Do You," got everyone in the party mood right from the start. Her show included a number of original songs with some fantastic covers like B.B. King's , "Ask Me No Questions" and the Muddy Water's classic, "Rock Me Baby" combined with "Meet Me With Your Drawers On." Solo work was generally split between guitarist Albert Castiglia and "L Train" Fletcher on keyboards. The band provided a well-crafted sound that complemented Hall's fine vocals and never took away from Hall's entertaining show. Near the end of the first set, the entire band even offered individual solos on a song called "Little Bit."
As is the case with all of Hall's performances, she flirted and teased the men and taunted the women through her sultry and openly suggestive retorts about the benefits of lovin' from a big beautiful woman. The 50-year-old Hall, who has a background in striptease and go-go dancing, still makes use of those experiences and knows just how to flaunt and taunt the testosterone driven males in the audience. During the first set, Hall performed her trademark number, "I Got Everything I Need." During this song, Hall will initiate a conversation with the audience, asking the females about their dress sizes and quizzing the males as to whether they have ever had a "Whopper". Hall makes it clear right from the start that she is not talking about a hamburger, but to enjoying the love of a big woman. This inquiry comes complete with a demonstration of that experience with a male member of the audience. The "victim" at Legend's was a young man named Chris, who was treated to a physical demonstration including Hall's placement of his hands on her derriere and his head on, and right into, her ample bosom. The demonstration drove the crowd wild, screaming and urging her on. The song is not without a moral however and, in the end, Hall made it clear to everyone that no matter what size dress she wears, a woman needs to know to keep her man satisfied.
Sandra Hall is definitely puts on a fantastic show, but she is also a powerful and talented singer. She puts a great deal of emotion into her music and works hard to entertain the crowd with her attitude and fine vocal style. Sandra and The Hoodoomen obviously enjoy their work and give it all up for the crowd every time they perform. She definitely lives up to her title as "Empress To The Blues," proving it at Tobacco Road in Miami and again at Legend's on Wednesday night in St. Cloud.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.