Just shy of 1 a.m. and I can't get to sleep after being knocked out of the park by the legendary Sheila E last night at the Metro Theatre in Sydney. And this wasn't just some gig; this was one of those 'special nights' where everyone was on a high and no one wanted to go home. As we say so eloquently in Australia, this was a ‘corker’.
From the moment Sheila E and her phenomenal band appeared on stage, it was on for young and old. Slamming us with Prince's 'When Doves Cry’, Sheila made her way across the stage and did her thing, singing, dancing and smashing those drums. The medley included such tracks as 'Erotic City', 'Let's Work', 'U Got The Look' and 'A Love Bizarre'. This talented woman just owns it! So natural, so genuine, such energy. My envy of her was overwhelming. Envy and total awe. This was such a high-octane gig and it was a relief to have such an awesome Sydney (and interstate travelling) crowd sharing in the energy and love on a Sunday night. Pure magic from the get go.
Knowing that this was going to be a heavily Prince-influenced set just made the night even more special. But who else could do the great man this much justice and honour him in such a spectacular way? No one, except for this one gifted lady, his former fiancé and musical collaborator. I knew it was going to be a celebration, of not just Sheila’s talent and Prince’s legacy, but of their two stars crossing musically and spiritually. Seeing Sheila giving it 200% and finally being able to witness her legendary percussionist skills was the biggest thrill after waiting for so many years to see her live and having missed out on any rare past Sydney gigs.
After our killer medley ended with one of the best saxophone solos I have ever witnessed, Sheila decides to make some music with her water bottle, while sipping in between, like we all used to try to do when young, except that her water bottle music sounded like an actual instrument. Humour and talent; an even better combination. We then get a gorgeous rendition of ‘Diamonds and Pearls’, which moves into ‘Leader of the Band’ and ‘Get on the Boat’. From here, Sheila decides to treat us to a cracking drum solo. Boy! Was this mesmerising. I have seen many a band in my life with some of the world’s top drummers but Ms E you are one of the best, without a doubt. Precision, passion, fire and flair. Being born with such a gift and having the chance to share it for so many decades is divine intervention. I suppose having multiple musically talented family members doesn’t hurt either. The gene can skip over some people, but thank God it didn’t in this case!
Recovering from this cracking drum solo Sheila moves into ’17 Days’, ‘Alphabet St’ and ‘Raspberry Beret’ which just send us all crazy. Some salsa and ‘Mona Lisa’ follows until we get to our first ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to Sheila. This amazing lady was turning 59 the next day, not that you could tell, as she cranked it up for ‘Bailar’, a new song which brought the house down. The night just steamrolled us all and we needed some chill and energy replenishment time, so Sheila brings it down a notch with some heartfelt and gut-wrenching Prince tributes. First it was ‘Rockstar’, ending with a Sheila E Purple Rain guitar solo which was performed out amongst the crowd after Sheila left the stage, and then the newly written ‘Girl Meets Boy’ with lyrics reminding us how their two stars collided once upon a time. Trying not to sob was extremely hard and most of us had tears in our eyes as we felt a little of the pain that Sheila was feeling after losing Prince earlier this year.
Following this we needed a pick me up and it came in the form of ‘Old Skool’ and ‘Holly Rock’, shaking us out of our collective sadness. They were just the right remedy until the 80s smash ‘The Belle of St Mark’ blew the crowd to pieces. The memories from childhood when this song started were just palpable; such intensity and such extreme happiness, within me and within the whole Metro crowd. Everything was just perfect and we were all in this little bubble of pure bliss. Then it was time for a second Happy Birthday rendition sung to Sheila, with accompanying birthday cake and her band serenading her with the Stevie Wonder track ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. Lovely indeed; and talented, with a beautiful heart. This is one happy and unified artist and band and it was such a pleasure to feel this much love on stage. They made you feel like you wanted to join the ‘team’ permanently but for those few hours you were in the team.
Moving on to our finale/encore of ‘America’, ‘Baby I’m a Star’ and ‘The Glamorous Life’, it was just chaos; dancing and singing, the metro was thumping and shaking. So many classics and such crazy percussion with such a tight backup band. Sheila herself just kept going and going and, by the end, we stomped on the ground, clapped and shouted for more so the lady herself gave us one last resounding drum solo and then picked up and threw her cymbal onto the floor. What a fitting finish to a phenomenal gig! Smash those drums, in more ways than one. All we can hope for is that it doesn’t take too many years for Sheila and her band to fly those 15 hrs back over to us one day. Crazy, crazy, night.... but not one that you won’t be able to remember!
by Marina Knezevic
© Copyright Marina Knezevic 2016. All rights reserved.