Wednesday night's performance by the Siegel-Schwall Band in Tillett Gardens was supposed to be the "concert," as opposed to the "night club" gig the blues group is booked for on Friday at the same venue. Well, as any blues lover could have told you ahead of time, it just wasn't meant to be.
By the second half of the show, the Polli's Restaurant bar, normally shut down and silent during concert performances in the garden complex, was filled to overflowing with patrons. By the last number, "Got My Mojo Going," seven female members of the audience had found or at least were diligently looking for their groove in the space in front of the small stage. And for the encore, "Somebody's Got to Do It," one of them joined vintage Chicago blues vocalist/drummer Sam Lay in a bit of musical repartee that was as good as any others of the night (and the others were plenty good).
And suffice it to say that certain usually staid pillars of the community who typically applaud politely, if enthusiastically, at the island's most elegant affairs were on their feet, making their moves, as the band played on.
Siegel-Schwall, although it dates from the '60s, is a band that makes you believe in electronics, with slides that just wouldn't work on a string bass or unplugged guitar. And it had people clappin' and whistlin' and hootin' just about from the start. They were stompin', too, but the footfalls were a bit hard to hear on the flagstones.
Opening with "Hush, Hush" and moving from there to "Billie Jean," the band established its personal parameters early on. Corky Siegel, co-founder with Jim Schwall of the band that bears their names, is the seasoned showman, sly but never shy, and definitely in control — even while rebounding from a bad case of the flu. Expert on piano, vocals and mouth harp (harmonica), he was forever moving between the piano in back and the front of the stage, as well as the ground space below. To those who had seen him perform once or twice before at the same venue with his Chamber Blues ensemble, the mannerism were familiar, if in a very different musical setting.
Rollo Radford, his Uncle Sam beard bouncing, commanded as much attention coaxing silence out of his bass as he did banging away, facing forward, playing to the side audience, or bounding down off the stage. He made points locally with his thunder-lizard music, dedicated "to someone I met here" — an iguana.
Sam Lay was introduced by Siegel as Howlin' Wolf's first drummer, and Little Walter's, and Paul Butterfield's, and Bob Dylan's. The legendary Chicago bluesman didn't get many drum solos Wednesday night, but he made his mark vocally, unself-consciously pulling off a politically incorrect little song called "Gotta Shoot Her," about a woman who "won't treat me right," with elan. Also with his wife of 45 years sitting in the audience. A lot of the whoops of approval at the end came from the ladies.
Jim Schwall soloed in "I Think It Was the Wine" but for the most part shunned the limelight. Actually, grandstanding wasn't a part of the night's offerings for any member of the band.
It was a near-full house at Tillett Gardens for the first of three nights of Chicago blues in the territory. The band was to take over the ballroom of the Westin Resort on St. John at 8 p.m. Thursday for the first St. John School of the Arts concert to be held in the resort venue, which can accommodate more than twice the number of patrons normally packed into the school building itself. Admission: $30 in general, $25 for students. Call 779-4322.
Friday night, it's back to Tillett Gardens for the "club night" of music from 9 p.m. until. There'll be cabaret-style seating with a la carte menu and beverage service from Polli's kitchen and bar. Admission is $25. With cabaret tables set up, seating is limited. For reservations, call 775-1929.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here