"SLY STONE to appear at White City Festival". Alter reading various articles concerning Sly Stone, you imagine the feeling of reading this headline. Alter not appearing at various concerts recently, would he also give this one a miss? More recently there has been his drug reports. Would he be allowed out of America and if he was would he be allowed into England? Not to mention the fact that he was appearing at a Rock Festival.
However apprehensively, I turned up at the White City on Sunday morning to find that Sly and His Family were in fact due to close the show!
Unlike most concerts and festivals this one actually started early! But, alas, after only fifteen minutes the heavens opened to treat us to a free downpour, which held things up for ninety minutes while the stage and equipment were dried.
From 1.30 p.m. through the afternoon and evening, the Rock bands played a lot of loud, unimaginative, and a small amount of good music to please R&B fans. Various old Rock and Roll standards were given numerous heavier renditions.
9.00 p.m. came round and the Edgar Winter Band (one of the heaviest bands around) left the stage for Sly and The Family Stone. Officially, only one more hour left and still the equipment to be changed.
I wondered how the audience would react, after eight hours of Rock, to Sly's more sopisticated brand of Soul music. The arena holding perhaps 7000 people half emptied, the remaining people just sat down. However, around 9.30 p.m. with the sign of movement on stage, everyone got to their feet. This in turn brought people running from all direct¬ions until some 10,000 people crammed in front of the stage, leaving the stands virtually empty.
With only twenty minutes remaining, Sly emerged on stage followed by the remainder of his eleven-piece band. The whole audience got into the rhythm as he started with his own arrangements of a medley of "You're The One", "Thankyou" and then speeding up for "M'lady". The first two songs featured The Little Sister chorus.
His really infectious bass/percussion, with a funky brass section, continued into "Stand" and "You Can Make It If You Try". So far it was slow moving and already it was after time.
Next, he played his new single "If You Want Me To Stay" of his fastest selling album to date — "Fresh".
This version sounded more like the original before the album was re-mixed.
Next came "Thankfull" and finally after forty minutes of slow moving yet really professional music, he gave the audience what they wanted. He bursted into "Dance To The Music" which hasn't lost anything over the years. This continued info "Music Lover" before he finished his set at 10.30 p.m.
An encore was definitely required by the audience and it must have been the shortest on record. They reappeared on stage and started "I Wanna Take You Higher" and alter barely sixty seconds the electricity was turned off. The percussion and brass were still audible but after a minute of trying to sing without a microphone he gave up and left the stage.
It ail finished just as things were beginning to warm up. What a pity other groups had been given an hour to perform and the changing of equipment always took thirty minutes or more.
As far as the set up, the groups were easily visible on the stage but the music echoed at the back of the stadium from the massive banks of speakers punching it out to an empty shell.
The lack of people didn't give any atmosphere unless you were cramped in front of the stage. This was unfortunate because if the weather had been line, plenty more people would have turned up.
Sly certainly kept his old fans happy with his fifty minute set and probably made a lot more besides. Let's hope it's not too long before he's back again.