Posted: Jul 22, 2007 5:33 am
The comeback tour of US funk star Sly Stone has made an inauspicious start in Europe following several short, disjointed performances by the reclusive 1970s icon.
After spending only 20 minutes on stage at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland last week, the 64-year-old musician performed only four and half songs during his latest gig in the southern French city of Nice.
True to his reputation as an unpredictable, combustible character, he walked off stage after 10 minutes leaving his backing band, known as the Family Stone, to keep the audience entertained.
Half and hour later, the brooding singer, hidden behind big sunglasses and baseball cap, reappeared to sing for another 10 minutes before disappearing for the final time.
Sly and the Family Stone began in 1967 and rose to stardom with their mix of memorable live performances and powerful music, a fusion of funk, gospel, psychedelic rock and acid jazz.
Hits included "Stand!," "Everyday People," and "Family Affair," which still get regular radio playtime 30 years after their emergence.
Starting in the mid-1970s however, Sly Stone, real name Sylvester Stewart, became known as much for his erratic behaviour as for his string of groundbreaking albums.
After suffering from drug addiction, Sly vanished in the mid-1980s and spent almost two decades out of the public eye when no one, even his former bandmates, knew where he was.
He reappeared to great surprise -- sporting a blonde mohican -- for a performance at the Grammys Awards in 2006 before announcing his mini European tour.
But the recent concerts, where Sly has looked weakened by his years of drug abuse and psychological problems, have been a far cry from his explosive displays at Woodstock or the times he shared stages with Jimi Hendrix.
By contrast, the Family Stone backing band has got younger, with only one of the original line up, trumpet player Cynthia Robinson, remaining.
A fan at the Nice Jazz festival, where Sly performed on Thursday, summed up the impression left by the ageing entertainer, who had nonetheless started brightly with a rendition of hit "If you want me to stay."
"You can tell he's been through a lot," resumed the fan.
The tour, which began at the beginning of the month, has included dates in Italy, Switzerland and France and will travel to Spain and Britain.