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Nitzer Ebb -

  by Sarah Maybank

published: 23 / 7 / 2007

Nitzer Ebb -


At the lavish Bournemotuh Opera House, Sarah Maybank watches Sly Stone, back on the stage with his Family Stone after many years away, blunder and tantrum his way through a shambolic set

Take to the stage an hour late. Perform four songs. Jump into the audience like a demented child. Leg it to a hail of boos and catcalls. Sorry, Sly Stone, but what worked for the Jesus And Mary Chain won’t cut it for you. Jim and William Reid’s sullen 20-minute micro-gigs were considered the height of mid-80's indie pop terrorism by their breathless student audiences. But your shambolic now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t turn at swanky Bournemouth Opera House was never going to impress an audience of value-orientated, 35 quid-a-head baby boomers. Stone deigned to take to the stage a good hour and a half after hyper-glam electro soul support Unkle Jam had blown the crowd away. And about a quarter of the way into his own set. The Family Stone had finally bounced onstage to a slow hand-clapping, eye-lid weary crowd at just after 11pm. Carried by pinpoint-harmonied backing singers, key Sly hits 'Dance To The Music', and 'Family Affair' funked seamlessly by without even a whiff of the maestro himself, as the bemused audience genially clapped along, awaiting his appearance at any minute. The gig was to morph into a musical car crash shortly afterwards when "sound problems" developed. The guitarist announced, "Sly won’t come out until his microphone’s fixed." Everything ground to a halt for half-an-hour of tedious, soundcheck-style shenanigans, which smacked of a desperate, playing for time opportunity. Finally appearing a few numbers after the "problem" was resolved, Sly shuffled from stage right, hunched of shoulder and concealed behind sunglasses, baseball hat and a knee-length black sparkly jacket. The crowd – and the Family Stone - looked almost ecstatically grateful as he hot-footed it around in the style of a genially drunk uncle at a wedding disco, then planted himself behind his keyboard and executed a few 360 degree twirls on his piano stool. It wasn’t to last. Sly disappeared for a second time, leaving the exasperated-looking backing singers to carry the set, then reappeared for a single encore only after vehement persuasion from his daughter, who’d popped up, presumably as a form of crowd control. Sloping off prematurely again, he left it to the band and singers to tie up the set to unanimous boos from the crowd, while he presumably sat in his dressing room counting his money and laughing his head off. A heated post-gig debate in the men’s toilets posed the following theory: if life dictates that you get what you pay for, and you’ve paid to see a shambolic genius former drug addict, then why complain if that’s what you get ? It’s doubtful Baby Boomer sees it that way. Chubby of cheek and frequently attired in cuddly fleeces and waistline-accomodating cargo pants, the fat-walleted boomer may be a comical prospect - but is to be crossed at the performers’ peril. They’re not going to want to shell out good money for four songs and a load of flannel. Which could mean recently- revived Sly’s Indian summer is about to become a long, lonely winter if he doesn’t get his act together. Literally.

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