The variety show is a venerable American musical institution, with a history that stretches all the way from medicine shows and vaudeville to the chitlin' circuit of the 1940s, the early 1950s rock & roll cavalcades promoted by Alan Freed, and the label-sponsored Stax/Volt Revue and Motortown Revue of the 1960s.
This Friday, the Soulard Blues Band will offer a specifically St. Louis version of that time-honored concept with their fifth annual St. Louis Blues and Soul Revue show at 8 p.m. in the upstairs ballroom at the Sheldon Concert Hall (3648 Washington Boulevard, 314-533-9900). "It hearkens back to those revue days, and Stax and Motown," says Art Dwyer, bassist and bandleader for the Soulard Blues Band. "They would have those shows, with a set of music where all the singers participated, and various genres were represented. We thought we'd just try to put one of those back on the map."
The show will feature the SBB serving as backing band for the entire evening, augmented by a three-piece horn section, which this year includes Soul Reunion's Gary Sextro on trumpet, the Voodoo Blues Band's "Blind" Willie Dineen on saxophone, and SIUE jazz program graduate Jordan Hart on trombone.
They'll open each set with a couple of instrumentals, and then go to work behind a series of vocalists including the SBB's own Marty Abdullah; East St. Louisan Renee Smith, a featured performer with local legends Oliver Sain and Johnnie Johnson; singer-guitarist Vince Martin, who Dwyer calls "one of St. Louis' hidden treasures"; and Ms. Monya, who's a generation younger than the others but is "really sinking her teeth into this music."
Dwyer says the four singers will present material ranging from familiar Motown hits recorded by the Four Tops, Miracles and Supremes, to soul classics from Sam & Dave, Jackie Wilson and Bobby "Blue" Bland, to grittier blues numbers associated with B.B. King, Albert King, and Slim Harpo. There also will be a distinctly St. Louis twist, represented by versions of the Ike Turner/Billy Gayles staple "Tore Up" and the Sharpees' "Do The 45."
Tickets are $15 for general admission, $30 for reserved table seating, and are available via Metrotix or at the Sheldon box office.