What makes Sheila E. a great performer? It’s not technical proficiency – for even as technically impressive as she can be with her hummingbird heartbeat-fast drum taps, she plays with a passion, energy, even ferocity that is un-teachable and inimitable. At the Chumash Casino Resort Showroom, Sheila E. and her band showcased this uncanny energy, vibrantly and irrefutably palpable even with an undercurrent of post-Prince grief.
The band began with a multi-song medley that featured “When Doves Cry,” and “Housequake,” wrenching out the maximum oomph per song even in these smaller medley doses. “Erotic City” and “Love Bizarre” featured some incredible saxophone solos from Eddie M., who singlehandedly could reverse public opinion on the sometimes maligned soft tone of the sax with his mind-blowing playing. And then there was, of course, Sheila’s drum solos, which earned her a standing ovation early into the set.
Celebratory as it was, the night was not without its more poignant moments. Before playing the Prince tribute “Girl Meets Boy,” Sheila gave some meaningful words. “Tomorrow’s never promised,” she reminded us. Playing music is their life, she said, and with all the things happening in the world, she can only hope they can bring a little joy with their playing. Glamorous, impassioned, and full of vitality, Sheila and her band brought more than a little joy to the Chumash – they brought heaps of it, In these moments of shared humanity and connectivity, Sheila reminded us it’s not skill that makes a player great, but soul – and hers shines exceptionally bright.