One might think in this age of DJs and music sampling that a great live performance is becoming a thing of the past. Well, not if Kenny Wayne Shepherd has anything to say about it. The young gun many had written off as a Stevie Ray Vaughan coattail rider has proven himself to be more than just a cheap imitator.
His set at The Bowery Ballroom on Jan. 27 was another installment in his successful career and a true testament to the power of a great live performance. This is a group of musicians who play for the music and pleasing their fans. Mr. Shepherd is a real guitar-slinging hero; he’s a young, gifted player, and he exudes total confidence as he and his band, ably co-piloted by frontman Noah Hunt, deliver the goods to a rather large and diverse following.
The audience spanned an unbelievably wide age range. At one point, two young girls nudged their way up front who couldn’t have been older than 18—and stood right next to a man easily in his mid-40s.
That being said, it’s extremely gratifying to see a large group of music fans brave single-digit temperatures to actually listen to a kickass blues-rock performance and show their more than spirited support. There were no theatrics or Hip-Hop style drama here—just great songs and good old-fashioned musicianship.
The set was laced with KWS classics like “Somehow, Someway, Somewhere,” “Kings Highway,” “I Don’t Live Today,” “Blue On Black,” and “True Lies,” which, at the end of its inebriated, looping outro riff and short-stop ending damn near brought the house down. It was amazing to hear this kind of music eliciting such a response from such a varied and diverse crowd.
Also making an appearance were songs from Kenny’s new CD, The Place You’re In. This offering has KWS taking a turn for a heavier rock sound, and the songs were delivered with similarly positive results.
From the deceptively languid intro and ultimately heavy alternative guitar riff of “Alive,” to the equally punchy sound of “The Place You’re In,” to “Hey, What Do You Say?” with its Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque guitar solo, the songs show a “modern rock” sensitivity while remaining true to Kenny Wayne’s blues roots. The crowd ate it up.
An extended version of Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile,” and the Peter Green (founding member of Fleetwood Mac) classic “Oh Well” were also included, and the evening was capped with the high octane “Slow Ride.”
The place the music industry is in these days is questionable at best, but from here, sounds like Kenny Wayne Shepherd is in the right place.
Photo by James T. Callahan