Audience gets best of blues-rock concert with Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
For a little more than three hours on Sunday, it was blues-rock heaven at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts as the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Jonny Lang each turned in electrifying sets on their first-ever joint tour.
Lang, originally from Fargo, North Dakota, and entering his second decade on the national scene despite being just 34, was up first, storming out of the gate with “Blew Up (The House)” from his most recent album, 2013’s “Fight For My Soul.”
Alternating between a black Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Les Paul for each song, the tall, lanky guitar slinger chose the Gibson for second song “Don’t Stop (For Anything)” from his Grammy award-winning 2006 album “Turn Around.”
The Fender was back for “A Quitter Never Wins,” from 1997’s “Lie To Me” (Lang’s major-label debut), with drummer Barry Alexander making a fine contribution on Sunday. Lang and his band followed with an extended version of “Turn Around.”
The crowd’s reaction to that fourth number caused Lang to say, “You guys are awesome! Thank you so much! We love you guys so much!”
The humble guitarist then thanked his band and crew members individually, right down to the woman selling T-shirts.
“Red Light,” from 2003’s “Long Time Coming,” was highlighted by a long sing along, with the audience helping Lang on “Everything’s gonna be all right.”
Lang wrapped up his hour-long set with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” which featured some fine back-and-forth between Lang and keyboard player Dwan Hill.
Lang then returned for a 15-minute encore of solo-acoustic versions of “Breakin’ Me” from 1998’s “Wander This World” and his breakthrough “Lie To Me,” before being joined by his band for an electric finale, complete with one more blistering solo.
Shepherd, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, and now 37, played a series of Fender Stratocasters on Sunday, taking the stage with “Never Lookin’ Back” from his 2011 album “How I Go.”
Shepherd’s band – lead vocalist Noah Hunt, drummer Chris Layton (recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble), keyboard player Riley Osbourn and bass guitarist Scott Nelson – were on fire from the get go, scoring again with “King’s Highway,” from a 2004 EP of the same name.
Shepherd followed with “True Lies” from his 1997 platinum-selling second album “Trouble Is…” before earning a standing ovation with “The Heat of the Sun,” which he called his favorite song
from “How I Go.”
“I’d like to take you back to 1995 and my first album ‘Ledbetter Heights.’ This is the song that introduced my band to the world,” Shepherd said before a great version of “Deja Voodoo.”
The KWS Band stayed with the debut album for “Born with a Broken Heart,” and then paid tribute to the late, legendary B.B. King with an extended medley of his 1953 hit “Woke Up This Morning” and 1961’s “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now,” which Shepherd and the band recorded for 2014’s “Goin’ Home.”
“Blues is the foundation of everything we do,” Shepherd said following the King tribute, which earned another standing ovation. “But at least once a night I like to break it down and play some good, old-fashioned blues.”
Shepherd then said instead of leaving the stage and coming back for an encore, the band would just continue playing due to a “strict curfew” (which was a bit confusing as it was only about five minutes past 10:00 and the Kirby Center has no such curfew). Nevertheless, the band scored again with Shepherd’s signature tune “Blue on Black,” then followed with a great cover of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee.”
Shepherd brought the evening to a spectacular conclusion with a fabulous version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” even playing a bit behind his head and earning yet another well-deserved standing ovation.