Vance Kelly at Beloit Riverfest
(Photo by Steve Sharp)
When South Side Chicago's hottest blues commodity, Vance Kelly, plays live, he's used to seeing the dance floor in front of his stage packed with dancers, butts shaking. Unfortunately for Kelly, who performed an hour-long twilight set at Beloit's Riverfest Friday, all he saw in front of him was a barren stretch of grass and concrete, and beyond that, a sparse and apathetic audience.
As a result, Kelly gave what, for most others, would have been a sterling performance. For him, however, it was merely average. In fact, it was nothing that Kelly probably couldn't have done in his sleep. Maybe he was asleep. Who could have blamed him?
Most of the early part of the night for Kelly and his Backstreet Candy Lickin' Blues Band was fraught with difficulties. Upon arriving at the fest's scenic Pavilion Stage, Kelly and his manager, Delores Scott, were left searching for a drum kit. Eventually they found one and the show went on approximately one hour late.
After soundchecking in front of their audience, Kelly and the band slid into a soulful version of B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone." Later in the show, they presented takes on Albert King's "I'll Play the Blues for You" and "Steal Away."
Unfortunately, Kelly spent most of his set delivering interpretations of blues and R&B classics. He did a wonderful job with each. However, it would have been nice, considering he now has three albums out -- including the brand new "Hands Off" -- to hear some originals. In one last attempt to reach the crowd three-quarters of the way through his show, Kelly pandered with the Ray Charles hit "What'd I Say," but to no avail.
Overall, Kelly, very much a professional, was able to entertain most in his small audience at Riverfest. However, it was by no means one of the young master's most inspired performances.