The re-entry of my old motorcycling pal Sly Stone into public life continues. Over the summer, he played some festivals in Europe. Now, he’s booked his first New York City dates since the 1970s, two shows (at 8 and 10:30 p.m.) on December 7 at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill.
As uneven as his European shows were said to be (most of them at outdoor, multiple-act festivals), I have a good feeling about the engagements at B.B. King’s. It’s a smallish indoor venue, and when I saw Sly play at the similarly cozy theater at the Flamingo in Las Vegas last spring, he seemed to be in his element, in good voice and in good form. The “revue” format will continue, with Sly appearing for just part of the Family Stone’s show. But the promise is that he’ll put in 30 minutes per set, and the hope is that he’ll get comfortable enough onstage to stick around for longer.
It bothers me that a lot of people are rooting for him to be a train wreck, to live up to his infamy as one of music’s most erratic figures. This is a guy who, for whatever reasons, has decided to give it a go again when most people expected that the next time they’d be reading about him was in his obituary. He’s certainly not blameless for making a mess of his life over the last 30-odd years, but his return–like Brian Wilson’s, Roky Erickson’s or any other drug-addicted or mentally tormented musician’s–was bound to be a bumpy road. I sincerely hope things start to smooth out for Sly.