On Monday June 23rd a lucky few Chicago denizens were treated to an intimate performance at the Hideout by the leading lady of protest, Mavis Staples. Accustomed to appearances at large venues, particularly in her hometown - the Windy City itself - Staples played with a stripped down, raw and swampy three-piece band and just a handful of back-up singers, providing a rare opportunity for fans to get close and sweaty with a figure who has led the musical charge towards equality and justice for the past five decades.
Kicking off her set with Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," Staples set the tone for the evening. Filled with righteous protest and joyful inspiration, Staples' song selections ranged from "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" -- what she described as the first song her father, gospel luminary Pops Staples, ever taught her -- to songs she sang in the 1960's marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, to her soul hit from the 70's "I'll Take You There."
The critics were floored:
"While performing a 14-song set that canvassed her 52-year career, Staples sang with a voice that has long distinguished her from the R&B greats of her era and those who reach for that crown today." -Mark Guarino, Chicago Tribune
"Anyone who was hearing this American treasure in concert for the first time learned precious lessons about where we have been and where we are today. After dealing "Freedom Highway" Staples stood tall and shouted, "My mind is made up, my heart is fixed." And she smiled. She was not alone." - Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun Times
"There are few living musicians who can lay claim to being America's conscience, even fewer who continue to make vital music. On Monday night at The Hideout, Mavis Staples proved she's still capable of both. But far more than merely being capable, the 68-year-old Staples showed she can light a fire, agitate for change or re-energize the American songbook." - Scott Smith, Time Out Chicago
"While [We'll Never] Turn Back formed the bulk of her Hideout set, tracks like "Down In Mississippi" and "We Shall Not Be Moved" turned from angry into hopeful, catching a swift ride on the steam train of Staples' vibrato and reversing the sunset peeking through the windows." -Steve Forstneger, Illinois Entertainer
"The performance...brought the Civil Rights movement and all those souls who marched, sang and prayed during that critical time, to the crowded little room. A tiny venue for Staples' big voice - bigger than the legend herself, nearly as big as the History she sings for -- the Hideout was standing room only and filled with the reverential." - Karen Zarker, Popmatters