Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The World Is His Boudoir

book cover

So the superlover leads you into his storied boudoir, details the delights about to unfold, and then commands you to play with yourself while he answers his e-mail. Two hours later he returns. You're pissed, frustrated, chafed. Do you give him a piece of your mind and split? Or lie back and enjoy it?

If the superlover is the Artist Who Once Wrote "1999" and you paid $75 to see him celebrate Good Friday at New York's Irving Plaza with funk legends Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station) and Chaka Khan (Rufus, her fine fat self), you shrug and get down. Starting an announced 1 a.m. show at 2:50, the Artist instantly gave up the requisite funk, although most of the songs readily identifiable by name originated with Sly and Rufus. A fit 51, Graham sang strong and tore it up on bass. Khan played keyboards and sang harmony, then wailed and scatted through a three-song, half-hour lead stint. Both, we learned, have albums due on the Artist's NPG label. Fancy that.

The Artist saved himself for an encore that lasted as long as the set. A multipartite, unidentified jam that seemed to be called "Mad Sex" (not "Bad Sex," surely) preceded a third Sly tune, "I Want To Take You Higher," which climaxed with disoriented extra-special guest George Benson scaring up a chicken-scratch solo that was neither fish nor fowl. Then Doug E. Fresh shouted "Who rocks the hardest?/The Artist rocks the hardest" over vamps appropriated from P-Funk, Chuck Brown, Fresh's own "The Show," and the Artist himself. It was 5 a.m., yet barely a soul left the building before the last whomp was through. I know, because I was near the door, checking.

Rolling Stone, 1998