For the Grand Opening weekend of her new club venture the E Spot Lounge, situated directly above Vitello’s Restaurant in Studio City, Sheila E decided to christen the place herself with a rare club appearance. The multi-instrumentalist has put together a cracker of a band for the upcoming dates in Europe to plug her latest album, Icon, and its impact inside the intimate room was massive.
Anyone who came looking for shades of the past – like the one woman who literally shouted “Eighties!” in between songs – would not have left the show disappointed. She did the four hits most of us would expect to hear, plus the mildly surprising choice of “Erotic City”. She still sings and plays timbales, and still looks amazing while doing so. But the best news is that, based on the high caliber of the new material that made up the bulk of the set list, Sheila E’s making some of the best music of her life right now.
The set was effortlessly funky at all turns, veering from old-school (in fact there’s a song called just that) to the hyperactive Latin hip-hop beats of “Fiesta,” a varied and well-crafted collection with a high percentage of floor-shakers. Sheila moved from her percussion rig to bass, guitar, and a second full set of drums, delivering one track from the back of the room, singing another as she ran around signing merch and posing for selfies with anyone who wanted one.
Anchored by her longtime saxophonist Eddie M, legendary guitarist Kat Dyson and the incredible Lynn Mabry (Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, Talking Heads among countless others) on vocals, her current band is a joy to behold, filled with capable players who know the value of restraint. Without a wasted note, they communicate total capability no matter what direction Sheila wants to take them, a real living, breathing unit. Mabry was given the lead on a cover of the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow” and bought chills to the room. They are one of the finest live funk bands I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, and the next time this unit plays anywhere near LA, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The E-Spot itself looks to be a prime spot to see sit-down gigs, as the sound is the first-rate, and the room set up for good sightlines throughout. Plus you can order the entire Vitello’s menu, a fine alternative to your usual overpriced/ unimaginative bar food. We wish it much success, and look forward to an increase in the number of memorable gigs happening on this side of the hills.