Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIn the annals of funk and soul, Sly & the Family Stone is one of the most revered, respected and frequently borrowed from bands. The group's influence on the past four decades of each genre is apparent, from old school label mates Earth, Wind and Fire to 80s innovator Prince to a slew of modern day appreciators (The Roots, Black Eyed Peas Outkast and many more). But the fact remains there's only one original entity, whose string of hits endures to this day and continually reign down meaty rhythms, horn splashed grooves and an unequivocally cool persona. Those qualities were recognized at this year's Grammy Awards during a special tribute section that featured The Family Stone led by Sly, who made an incredibly short and strange appearance during "I Want To Take You Higher" by pounding on a keyboard, shouting a few lines and strutting around with a blonde Mohawk.
Though it was apparent that the normally reclusive Stone's behavior would make a full concert practically out of the question, the program did conjure up a renewed interest in the group leading to a rise in sales of somewhat recent collections like The Essential Sly & the Family Stone (Legacy). The extra attention also added extra wind in the sails of The Family Stone Experience, which reconvened (and slightly tweaked its moniker) with founding member Jerry Martini (saxophone), fellow original Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) and longtime member/Sly's sister Rose Stone (vocals, keyboards), all of whom appeared at the Grammy telecast. Along with several session players, the band tested the waters overseas earlier this year and is currently on an American tour, recalling its favorite memories while introducing those songs to a new generation.
Throughout an 80-minute performance at downtown St. Charles' historic Arcada Theatre, this organization proved to be a reputable, eclectic and entertaining option, cruising through a catalogue of killer jams that found additional footing in the live setting. "Everyday People" and "Dance To the Music" served as early examples of The Family Stone Experience's scintillating sounds, vibrating with a sleek instrumental bounce that had everyone (both on and off stage) shaking their booties to the beat. "Hot Fun in the Summertime" kept the heat turned up high, creating a sweaty dance floor held up by sweltering horns, abundant harmonies and vintage memories. Additional Sly & the Family Stone throwdowns such as "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" and "Family Affair" translated to the current time period thanks to their slick arrangements and thrusting pulsations, while the encore "I Want To Take You Higher" could've very well been taken straight out of the psychedelic era.
Even though the concert covered all the important Sly & the Family Stone bases, the night probably left some wondering if Martini and company could possibly reel in the entire line-up of past players, along with the enigmatic Sly himself. The appreciative and highly active Family Stone Experience audience would've surely went ballistic had everyone came out to the party, while it would've instantly catapulted the band back into the global spotlight. In the meantime, fans can keep their fingers crossed and continue supporting this impressive option, while simultaneously scoring their funky fix.
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