Dancing and laughing are two of the greatest joys of the human experience, but it isn't often that you get to engage in both at once – enter Reggie Watts. During his June 4 performance at the 3rd Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival, the multi-talented artist had Chicago fans at Thalia Hall moving to funky jams – compliments of Watts' band Karen – and cracking-up to witticisms about politics, celebrities and the impending legalization of marijuana.
No opener was necessary for the sold-out show as Watts kicked things off with some stand-up and freestyle verses joking that the night would include deep cuts from Brian Eno, Cradle of Filth and Barbra Streisand. He also paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, praising the heavy-weight champ's continuous ability to fight for what he believes in over the decade, while musing “wouldn't it would be nice to know what today's celebrities are really thinking.”
Once Karen – comprised of Tim Young (lead guitars), Steve Scalfati (keyboards), Hagar Ben Ari (bass), and Guillermo E. Brown (drums) – joined the comedian on stage, a funktastic dance party erupted throughout the sold-out venue. The grouped jammed ferociously as Watts traversed an impossible amount of vocal octaves and grooved with fans at the front of the stage.
Watts took time out to riff with the crowd about weather saying, “Chicago be windy” and “L.A., oh it's just so eh.” He owned every inch of the stage – while Karen rocked out an interesting array of ambient, jazzy jams – including the side curtains which he used to play peek-a-boo with the audience. Later, he conferred with fans on the groove speed and key of an upcoming song, ultimately deciding on E minor with a slow tempo that would later increase. “Thank you for the infinite cycle of acknowledgment and understanding,” he said in gratitude for the outpouring of love and laughter that flowed throughout the hall.
Every time you see the wizard that is Watts perform live you are in for a uniquely spellbinding mixture of music and humor which sweeps you up into a whirlwind of imagination and possibility. His shows are in the same vein as a classic funk concert – with a whole lot of hilarity thrown in for good measure – but it is also something completely new and utterly unique. Check out photos from Reggie Watts & Karen's 3rd Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival set above and keep reading AXS for more comedy news, reviews and tour announcements.