Review / Setlist: Booker T Jones @ City Winery 5/4/14

Words: Justin & Alex Wood
Photos: Justin Wood

Though typically known for his affiliation with Stax Records and the M.G.s, Booker T Jone’s show at City Winery covered the artist’s entire career.

Focusing as much on collaborations and influences as on original songs, the set was full of surprises.

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Backed by a three-piece band, Booker T opened with Roots-collaboration “Harlem House” before playing a climactic version of “Hang ‘Em High.”

“You can’t come to Chicago and not play the blues,” he said before Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign,” where Jones provided vocals as well.

Though the classic blues number is a tough one to follow, “Green Onions” came next, presenting a classic of his own.

Jones played guitar, a black Les Paul, on “Hey Joe,” describing his early career playing baritone sax on a Rufus Thomas single. The musician had a seemingly endless number of stories to share throughout the evening, addressing the audience casually and humbly.

Jones described living next to Bob Dylan, who asked him to play bass on a song for a movie with Kris Kristofferson, before breaking into “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.”

Prior to “A Song For You,” Jones described needing a new “musical home” after leaving Stax and finding one with Leon Russell. Jones performed the song alone on organ, the band eventually returning to stage before its end.

Lauryn Hill cover “Everything Is Everything” was followed by “Time Is Tight,” a theme-song written by the M.G.s for the movie “Uptight” in 1969, its slow, dramatic opening and driving bass line making for an apt closer.

The first encore stood as a high point of the set, as legendary soul-singer William Bell joined for “I Forgot To Be Your Lover.”

A second encore followed with two very different classics, first Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and then Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”

In the end, the set was a reminder of the extent to which Booker T pervaded the music scene over the last 50 years. From his legendary Stax Records run to his roles on popular recordings by Dylan and Leon Russell to more recent collaborations with The Roots and Drive-By Truckers, Booker T has never stopped contributing to the music scene and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.


Set list:

1.) Harlem House
2.) Hang 'Em High
3.) Born Under A Bad Sign (Albert King cover)
4.) Green Onions
5.) Hey Joe* (Jimi Hendrix cover)
6.) Knockin' on Heaven's Door* (Bob Dylan cover)
7.) Hoochie Coochie Man* (Muddy Waters cover)
8.) Take Me To The River* (Al Green cover)
9.) Hip Hug-Her
10.) 66 Impala
11.) A Song For You (Leon Russell cover)%
12.) Soul Limbo
13.) Everything Is Everything (Lauryn Hill cover)
14.) Time Is Tight
15.) I Forgot To Be Your Lover*^ (William Bell cover)
16.) Hey Ya (Outkast cover)
17.) I've Been Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding cover)

*Booker T. on electric guitar & vocals
%Booker T. solo on organ > full band
^w/ William Bell on vocals

Band members:
Organ: Booker T. Jones
Electric guitar: Vernon "Ice" Black
Drums: Steve Potts
Electric bass: Melvin Grant

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