Blues Fest Got Soul The Monterey Bay Blues Festival will be history by the time you read this review. This year’s festival was historical for several reasons. Congress have declared the year 2003 as the Year of The Blues, this festival concluded Black Music Month on a soulful note, and this was the 18th anniversary of the Monterey Bay Blues Festival, which called for a celebration.
The operative phrase for the weekend of June 27-29 was hot, hot, hot. The weather person called for a weekend of hot weather. People came from all over California to hear some of the hottest blues artist on the circuit, and to enjoy the festivities at the best and hottest blues festival this side of the Mississippi.
The 18th Annual Monterey Bay Blues Festival began and ended on a soulful note. Kicking off the festival, in the main arena, Friday, was The Temptations. They brought back many fond memories for the capacity crowd in the main arena. Many of the members of the audience, myself included, recalled with fond memories, what they were doing, with whom and where they were at spiritually when the following tunes were performed by The Temptations: "My Girl", "Get Ready", "Ain’t Too Proud To Beg", "I’m Losing You", "Wished That It would Rain", "The Way You do The Things That You Do", "Since I Lost My Baby", and "Memories". I’m sure that you had a pleasant flashback while reading this review also. Soul Friday also consisted of a wonderful set from the Average White Band performing hit such as: "I’ve Got Work To Do", "Sweet Music", "Pick Up The Pieces", and closed out with "I’m The One That Wants You".
Soul Saturday featured the dynamic Mr. Lou Rawls, considered by many as a "Singers, Singer". Others would say he is a pioneer that set the groundwork for today’s rap and hip-hop artist. His career spans 40 years, in the musical and theater arenas. You are guaranteed a delightful set regardless of the venue in which he is performing. This was quite evidence during his crowd-pleasing show Saturday evening on such classic hits as "Tobacco Road", "Natural Man", "Groovy People", "Lady Love", "Since I Met You, Baby", "I Want To Be Good To You", "Room With A View", and closed with my favorites "Going To Kansas City", "St. James Infirmary" and seized into "Stormy Monday". Soul Saturday also featured sets from Lonnie Brooks, Charlie Musselwhite, and Los Angeles favorite jazz and blues vocalist Ms. Barbara Morrison.
The Monterey Bay Blues Festival took a detour from their regularly scheduled program, and turned into a gospel revival for three hours. This was all good, as the group Endurance kicked off the Sunday program with some spiritually uplifting set of gospel music, on the Garden Stage. An hour later, W. D. Gospel Singers continued to take the congregation of blues aficionados on a spiritual journey. one could shout of "Amen", "Praise The Lord", and "Thank You Jesus", during and after each of the following tunes: "A Change Is Gonna Come", "My Time Ain’t Long", "Keep The Faith", "He Is A Wonderful One", "I Made A Vow To The Lord", "and "Working The Road". The Blind Boys of Alabama concluded this spiritual journey with a baptism with the song "Take Me To The River".
Shemekia Copeland gave a standout performance as well on Sunday. She incited murmurs amongst the crowd before her set, as she is the proud recipient of several Handy Awards for her latest CD Talking To Strangers. The Handy Awards is the equivalent of a Grammy Award for artist in the blues genre. She won over the crowd with her feisty, playful and sassy stage persona. Ms. Copeland is a new kid on the block of blues singers, that people in the blues and pop community will be hearing a lot from in the near future. She demonstrated her powerful vocal abilities by sanging a couple choruses a capella (without a microphone), which could be heard 20 rows deep as wells as 20 rows wide.This is pretty remarkable when you take in to account the seating arrangement in the main arena.
The Rev. Al Green set was the highlight and crowning moment for the entire weekend. Sporting a cream colored suit, Rev. Al Green passed out several dozen pink roses to his adoring fans. The Right Rev. Al Green satisfied the spiritual needs of the capacity crowd in the main arena, as well as the wall to wall group gathered in the Turf Club, and in the Press Room watching and enjoying his enlightening set on TV monitors. The Right Reverend Al Green cranked out hit after hit such as "Let’s Get Married Today", "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright", "Love and Happiness", "God Is Good All The Time", "Amazing Grace", "Let’s Stay Together", "Nearer To Thee", "and "I’m So In Love With You".
It should come as no surprise that people from San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Monterey, Salinas and Los Angeles consider the Monterey Bay Blues Festival as their favorite blues festival. A Big and Thunderous round of applause should be extended to the Executive Board, Directors, Executive Manager, Associate Directors, Outreach Associate Directors, Ex-Officio Directors, and the many, many volunteers too numerous to count, for putting together this outstanding event year after year.