B.B. King Blues Club, February 9, 2007:
Johnny's band starts off the set. Paul Nelson demonstrates his exemplary guitar talents. Wayne June and Scott Spray round out the group and set the scene for a much anticipated, memorable musical experience.
At 8:30 P.M., Johnny Winter walks out on stage and quickly sits down. The fact that he walks out on stage unaided, is a significant indicator of his current health. Johnny opens with “Hideaway,” a shuffle blues, and I can immediately sense he is physically much better. Johnny’s playing is deliberate, clear, lively and creative. Scott Spray takes a short bass feature that jumps. There is a rhythmic change to a straight 4/4 tempo from Wayne June, and then back to the hypnotic and absorbing boogie shuffle.
On “Sugar Coated Love,” Johnny’s fingers show evidence of being much stronger. His leads are inventive and tough. His brash and ballsy style is back and there is an excellent musical groove. Johnny’s finger-style playing and lead guitar melodies, accompanied by a tenacious vocal delivery, are impressive. Johnny’s vocals are persuasive and articulate. Johnny’s back in excellent form. The band is jellin’.
“Boogie Real Low” is a slow swing and the band is tight. Johnny’s vocals reach the high register and are powerful. The band executes dynamic stops for contrast and musical emphasis. Johnny executes double-time strumming that is very clean and clear. His lead guitar string bends are right on the money. Wow! This is very moving. The band accents are well executed. Wayne June is performing with machine-like precision and Scott Spray’s bass is succinct and excitingly staccato.
“Miss Ann” is a shuffle boogie in the key of G. Johnny performs lead guitar and vocals in an answer/response form. The band is hot and very together. Johnny’s leads are sparkling and his formidable vocals are rich, with superior sustain notes and skillful use of breath. Johnny’s double picking and blues scale runs are well phrased. His double strumming is precise and exacting. I notice Johnny’s fingers are resilient, long and lean.
“Black Jack” follows which is a Ray Charles composition. This slow blues is fantastic. Johnny’s vocal growl is back! His vocal execution is clear and robust. Johnny’s high register vibrato vocal is smooth and sexy. Johnny plays slow, passionate leads and cleverly executes double-time melodic changes for dynamic emphasis. His melodic phrasing is superior. He double strums the chord melody, with confident ease. Johnny executes clever phrasing, dynamic stops and melodic changes for pure performance excitement. His lead note bends and double-time picking is exceptional. The band builds to a strong crescendo and dynamic stop by Wayne June, which brings cheers from the ecstatic audience.
“Tore Down” features the talented drummer, Wayne June, on lead vocals. Wayne is an excellent vocalist. He is quite able to deliver strong lead vocals while effortlessly playing impeccable drums. This outstanding boogie style is very spirited and tight. The next arrangement, “Lone Wolf,” is a more Rock & Roll feel. The band’s execution is enticing, unyielding and potent. The musical accents are vibrant and enthusiastic. Wayne’s cymbal work, utilizing rhythmic accents on the crown of the cymbal, is captivating. These accents are succinct and provocative.
“Hootchie Cootchie Man” is a Muddy Waters composition. The introduction of the song features Wayne’s telling the story of Muddy Waters. The slow shuffling Rock & Roll delivery is impressive. Wayne describes how Muddy said, “Johnny was his son.” The musical groove is commanding and moving. The band is cohesive and resolute. Wow! Johnny is smokin’! His lead guitar playing is controlled and fresh. His execution is thrilling.
“Johnny Guitar” is next. Johnny wails, “They call me Johnny guitar.” What a tremendous storyline and vocal delivery. Johnny’s endurance is rather phenomenal. He is not slowing down what-so-ever. It is quite ironic that while Johnny wails incredible leads on his git’fiddle, he actually manages a very natural yawn, remarkable! The band is strutting along in an unparalleled and magnificent show of strength.
“It’s All Over Now” is smokin’ tight. Johnny executes incredible guitar riffs. Paul Nelson returns on second guitar and contributes skillfully. Johnny is strong and unwavering to the end. Absolutely no let up at all. The band is red hot. Johnny leaves the stage as the audience stands and goes utterly wild!
Johnny returns with “Mojo Boogie” and the music is at a fever’s pitch. The tempo is simmering and a maddening presence fills the room. This kind of spontaneous charisma characterized Johnny Winter performances of the past, and the fire is back tonight!
“Highway 61” concludes the evening with Johnny playing outlandish slide on his Firebird guitar. This is dazzling slide guitar. It is total bedlam as Johnny literally blows us all away with his musical performance genius. The band is on fire as the spontaneous energy propels the entire performance twenty feet straight up. The execution is powerful, cohesive and totally invigorating. What a finale! Johnny’s slide guitar is commanding, as everyone is standing and cheering. His simultaneous vocals are forceful and compelling. Johnny’s performance is ignition on the launch pad, like the Johnny of old. The trio is stimulated to the highest level of the evening.
Johnny Winter puts on an inspirational performance tonight. His health has returned and is clearly reflected in a truly stellar performance. Wayne June, Scott Spray and Paul Nelson are fantastic. The aesthetic and poignant grasp of a band’s endeavor is difficult to quantify and describe, but the overall effect is something magical to behold!
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