Thursday, October 29, 2009

Show day!

I got up early to go get my hair done. Years ago when I lived in Harlem, I came across a hair salon that knew exactly what to do with my hair (an issue my entire life, I’ve tried all kinds of stylists but very few left me happy with the result). It’s a shop that specializes in curly hair, called Ouidad. They’re very expensive, but they do such a great job with cutting and styling my hair, that whenever I’m in NYC, I make an appointment. As usual, I left the shop with my hair looking great, quickly receiving compliments, knowing that it would just look better as the day progressed. Excited, I met the band in the lobby, and headed to the venue.

We arrived at Madison Square Garden at about 1pm, had lunch (with me sitting at the same table as David Crosby – what a great guy!!) and then hit the stage for sound check. During sound check, there were all manner of audio issues taking place. My keyboard set up was apparently giving off wicked feedback, so for about half of the sound check, I had no audio, and had to pantomime my parts. Not fun, but oh well! Finally, that issue was resolved. As each of the celebrity guests came to the stage, they waved and smiled at me as I stood at my keyboard station on stage right (which will be on the left side if you’re in the audience or watching me on screen). Believe me, I was very happy to be receiving waves and genuine smiles from these musical icons. While we were rehearsing with Jeff Beck, Bonnie Raitt (one of my musical s-heroes, I’ve been a fan since my college days) stood in the audience and grooved to the music. I wanted to meet her, but unable to make that happen, I had to be satisfied to watch her enjoy the band.

For most shows, I do my own makeup and hair, but for this show, we were allowed to work with professionals! My makeup artist, Sarah from Cleveland (thinking proactively…MY makeup artist), painted my eyes in a smoky style, dark, intense and fierce! I loved it! Oh, and did I take a photo? DOH! I’m sure there’s a photo somewhere out there in the Universe…but I don’t have it! Sigh…

On my way back upstairs to our designated dressing room, I passed the host, Tom Hanks, on my left, and Bruce Springsteen on my right. Let me tell ya: SURREAL! Walking by Tom while he spoke to the HBO film crew, and Bruce as he exited his limo, I felt like I was in a movie scene.

Finally, everyone dressed, prayed up (we pray before each performance…God Bless Stevie!), hugged by Smokey Robinson (I even got a kiss on the cheek!), and ready to go, we mounted the stage, which was arranged on top of a rotating table. At the appointed time, the table began to turn, and we faced the capacity audience, screaming at the top of their lungs for Stevie, all of us full of anticipation. Stevie lifted the microphone to his mouth, took a deep breath, and said “-------“

Huh? What happened? He tried again “-----------“.

Houston, we have a problem! Apparently the board through which all of our sound was being projected to the audience completely broke down at exactly the moment we hit the stage. So, the director of the of the program came to the stage (headset and all) and spoke to Stevie while the engineers worked frantically to resolve the issue. I still don’t know exactly what happened, or how they fixed the problem, but after about 15 minutes, we were able to perform, albeit with compromised sound quality. I’ve learned that the audio that will be broadcast on HBO on November 29 was not affected. I hope that’s true.

We went on and performed for Smokey Robinson, B. B. King, John Legend, Sting and Jeff Beck, and I had a great time. Tune in to HBO on November 29, 2009, to see the concert!

After our performance, Lanesha and I ventured out into the audience to watch Bruce Springsteen perform. I don’t really know his music (other than the monster hit “Born in the USA”), but was curious about his concert, as I’d heard that he’s a great performer. I can confirm that it’s true! He was amazing! Great energy, wonderful story telling, exceptional musicianship. Awesome! What a day!

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