New Zodiac Entertainment Center

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Squatting at the base of the Central Avenue bridge, which crosses over some rail yards, the Zodiac has a long history of rhythm and blues entertainment, including a stint during which Chicago soul icon Tyrone Davis was a partner. These days it's still run by the other partner, and the bookings still tend toward flashy, horn-and-vocals-driven hard soul. Material often runs to the risque, with Bobby Rush and other Chitlin' Circuit performers' material interpreted by the lesser-known artists who appear here. The room is spangled and rather large, with a sizable stage that allows for full horn sections and backup singers. Cover charges are higher than most West Side venues, reasonable by downtown standards. Between live sets you often will get deejay sets as well, so your entertainment dollar stretches a long way. Cantankerous owner "Shorty" seems to have a haphazard booking policy, and the hours of operation seem to be determined by whim, so call ahead to be sure there's a band. Chaotic scheduling aside, the caliber of activity both onstage and in the crowd makes this an entertainment bargain.