William Bell and the Total Package Band Live at the dakota bar 8/12/18
Whoever wrote the proverb “All things come to those who wait” must have had William Bell in mind. William Bell is reaching the zenith of his career these days not out of nostalgia or sentimentality, but because he is at the zenith of his abilites. Blues and Soul music have not been getting alot of respect these days. Recent reports say the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is gravely ill. The Grammy Awards even removed those iconic and uniquely American genres from its live television presentations a couple years back. That’s okay, there is some good news coming out of these genres. Here’s a little trivia quiz for all the music lovers out there: What artist’s live performance stole the show at the 2017 Grammys and won the Grammy for the 2017 Americana Music Album of the Year? Answer: William Bell. “You mean the Blues legend William Bell who wrote “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’? The legendary Stax soul singer?” One and the same. Last night he proved why he is still the world’s greatest blues/soul/Americana or any other genre performer alive, period.
It would be a huge disservice to bring up age after Bell’s performance last night. The show wasn’t great for a man of his age (79 years young) because William Bell isn’t affected by age. This is not hyperbole, we have plenty of that in Americana Music circles these days. This man hit every note, from a sustained high note during “I Forgot to be your Lover”?/Sam Cooke medley to his trademark “huh ha”baritone that punctuates many of his classics and causes the ladies to swoon, and hit every note in between. Bell’s dynamic performance in this intimate jazz club, (so intimate that the stage was practically crowded with his 8 piece band, that’s including his 2 back-up singers/dancers), was even more miraculous since it was coming off his headline performance in front of a crowd in the tens of thousands at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, MN. Ever the consummate pro, not only did Bell and the Total Package Band, his crack band from his home in Atlanta, perform two shows at the dakota (I attended the late show) less than 24 hours later, they effortlessly mastered the dynamics of the jazz club, with Bell often holding the mic far from his mouth, filling the room with his unamplified voice, but also brought it down to where the band was playing so quiet you could hear a pin drop and that included the mesmerized audience in a dinner club, no small feat.
The evening got off to a propitious start with the Total Package Band taking the stage alone, opening with “In Stone/Uptown Funk”, the Mick Ronson and Bruno Mars homage to the Minneapolis Sound and a nice way of showing their respect in the home of the Purple One. Lead and back-up singers and dancers Phyllislorena Smiley and Xavier Lewis got the audience revved up with their call and response for what was next. As the horn section of baritone sax Ty Holmes, Alex Walke tenor sax and on trumpet Melvin Miller broke into the familiar strains of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” it was Showtime and out came the Stax legend dressed to the nines in all black, sequined sport coat, hat and sunglasses.