Toronzo Cannon and the Cannonball Express
November 2, 2012
I have heard that there are three essential late night Chicago experiences every Chicagoan must do: a jazz club, blues bar, and improv comedy. My wife and I as of this past Friday accomplished the 2nd of the three (having already done a jazz club), hitting up B.L.U.E.S., a Chicago blues staple since 1979, with a couple friends who came to town. Improv will have to come soon with a visit to Second City surely in our future.
B.L.U.E.S. has had live blues music seven nights a week since its humble start in 1979 and now carries a fairly steep cover every night (at least $10). That is a testament to just how cool this place is. The walls were also sprinkled with pictures of all the blues greats that have adorned the stage there. During the intermission, they had retro footage of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards playing with blues legend Buddy Guy at B.L.U.E.S., probably in the mid-80s; not a bad way to spend a band intermission. On the night we went, we got to catch the eccentric Toronzo Cannon and his band, the Cannonball Express, for one groovy and highly entertaining set.
Toronzo Cannon and the Cannonball Express was a four piece with a drummer, bassist, and Toronzo and the other guitarist alternating between lead and rhythm. The band whipped through a set of blues standards as well as a slew of Cannon’s originals with grit and gusto. Toronzo himself was quite the character; full of snappy one-liners, hitting on an entire table of girls despite his wedding band, and was a frisky guitar player if there ever was one. His guitar solos were not only melodic but varied and highly playful in nature; he would tease famous riffs, slide effortlessly on the neck from top to bottom, and pull out his fair share of Prince-like phallic gestures with his guitar. The sexual energy all culminated in “King Bee”, one of the more overtly sexual blues standards of all time, where he invited up one of the girls he had been eyeing the whole night, had her sit front and center, and proceeded to tonguing his guitar like you know what right up in her grill. This was highly impressive, highly uncomfortable, and highly hilarious all at the same time. While he is no Jimi Hendrix when it came to his tonguing abilities, it was still impressive how quickly and nimbly he played it.
Overall, the experience was wholly positive and I highly recommend B.L.U.E.S., Cannon, or blues in Chicago in general. The Windy City is chock full of culture, and blues is right at the heart of it.
Can’t Miss: “Voodoo Chile”, “King Bee”
Can’t Hit: none