Tonight the Hot Rod that is The Kenny Wayne Shepherd band screeches into Leamington Spa, The Assembly to be precise, on another night in the young man from Shreveport, Louisiana’s, leg of his latest tour promoting his latest album ‘Lay It On Down’, his 9th album to date.
Kenny’s unique style mixes the very best of Texas Blues, Classic Rock and Country guitar with the likes of SRV, Hendrix, BB King and dare I say Gary Moore as added influences to give a sound that is always mouth wateringly full of passion, speed and precision.
After a sensational opening set played by one of the UK’s great, young guitar heroes. The Laurence Jones Band played an all too short set. Bathed in yellow spots for most of his set, Laurence featured songs from his new (5th) album, ‘The Truth’. In fact four of the six song’s on his set list are from the new album, added in, just to show you that this UK based Blues man is a force to be reckoned with, are Hendrix’s version of the Dylan classic, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and finishing off with ‘Good Morning Blues’ a song originally penned by Leadbelly, and a personal favourite.
The Laurence Jones Band is:
Guitar and Vox – Laurence Jones
Bass – Greg Smith
Keys – Bennett Holland
Drums – Phil Wilson
Laurence Jones Set List:
What Would You Do
Give Me Your Time
All Along The Watchtower
Good Morning Blues
After a short interval while the roadies did a sterling job of setting the stage ready for KWS we are greeted with the usual intro soundtrack and cheering from the assembled crowd. Just shy of 1000 fans have ventured out on a Monday night to catch this blues rock genius.
Getting set up KWS spends no time in getting into the opening Riff of ‘Never Looking Back’ from his 2011 album ‘How I Go’. The straight up and down right hand strum staccato’s across the strings of his trademark black Strat festooned with the white GT stripes, he then drops into the bluesy shuffle that calls for Noah to scream out as he gets ready with his ballsy baritone and then he’s ‘ Going Down the Road’ and we’re away, his voice a perfect foil for KWS’s precise energetic guitar playing.
With blonde locks flying Kenny struts around the stage, face contorted as he squeezes every ounce of music from his chosen guitar. Noah strolls across the stage to wrap his arm around Kenny, Finger poised in the air telling the fans who is number one, they don’t need telling. The mesmerising player has already got them hooked.
Joe Bonamassa seems to be the golden boy at the moment, out there doing it, using social media to the full. KWS is easily his equal, in fact some would say he surpasses Joe in the entertainment and value for money stakes. The energy and intensity that KWS pours into his playing makes him a veritable delight to watch, something Joe could do with by the bucket full. A technical genius and precise musician Joe may be but one who can sometime leave you asking the question ‘and?’.
‘Ride of Your Life’ follows, the first of several songs from the new album again a great guitar driven slower blues shuffle with car derived lyrics, the solo harks of SRV double stops and front pick up as he plays around Hunt’s vocal. ‘True Lies’ follows featuring a catchy riff that has you expecting Laurence Jones to walk on with his trademark Telecaster hanging low, but no its from KWS’s 1997 album ‘Trouble Is’, recorded at the age of 20, Kenny is showing us new and some old classics.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘House is a Rockin’ follows. At last KWS plays a track by my hero, having got into Kenny years ago because of the underlying SRV sound, this is a dream come true and although there are a lot more songs to come it’s my favourite of the night. Kenny catches the electric energy that SRV poured from every ounce of his body, he picks the song up and smashes it, full throttle, out of the park. Brilliant!
‘Hard Lesson Learned’ from the new album follows that trip of a tune, a slower bluesy number featuring Noah on vocals and acoustic guitar, joined in harmony by Shepherd for the chorus showing how much he has gained in confidence in his vocal ability. Shepherds higher register complimenting Hunts more baritone offering. Interspersed with a beautifully played solo, simple in its structure, carry’s the message , ‘hey baby you’re a hard lesson learned here I go again’.
Only four songs in of a 90 minute set, and the night is on fire. Two more songs follow of the brilliant new album ‘Baby Got Gone’ seeing Shepherd take the lead vocals as Hunt playing second guitar, and the equally great ‘Down For Love’ again featuring Shepherd on vocals and his trademark shuffle on the Black GT Strat.
No Kenny Wayne Shepherd gig would be complete without that mesmerising hit from ‘Ledbetter Heights’, the opening riff to ‘Deja Voodoo’ chimes out and up goes a great cheer from the crowd. Only bettered when Shepherd cracks into the solo, the atmosphere in the Assembly is electric as he picks out lead break after lead break. The band has picked out a great set consisting of old and new material. From the opener ‘Never Looked Back’ to the Moore inspired ‘ Heat of the Sun’ and the earlier teen shuffle ‘Born with a Broken Heart’. The songs have demonstrated Shepherds song writing abilities from an early age.
The band have grooved together like old veterans, BB Kings ’You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now’ has Noah featuring only to wait while Shepherd and keyboard player Krown joust and dance their way through the songs epic narrative.
‘Blue on Black’ has to feature, in fact merch has the ‘Blue on Black’ tee-shirt still available. Again from the Album ‘Trouble Is’ this acoustic driven ballad shows Shepherds song writing ability as a teen was extraordinary, interlaced with bluesy fat guitar breaks, this laid back song sounds like a theme from a cowboy film yet to be seen.
‘Voodoo Chile’ seems the only song out there fit to end this 90 minute extravaganza. Shepherd has taken on the form of Hendrix as he soars and screams like a man who’s possessed. Hendrix is channelling through this outrageous talent as he rips the heart out of this historic song. Blonde hair flying as he hits shape after shape, his face contorted as he feels every note plucked with every nerve in his young body. Wow, and so we have it. A 90 minute display of how to entertain, mesmerise and leave fans talking. Ninety minutes passed way to quick. I can’t wait for this band to come screeching into a venue near me. Catch him if you can, it’s definitely the best way to spend a school night.
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band is:
Vox and Lead Guitar – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Guitar and Lead Vox – Noah Hunt
Bass – Kevin McCormick
Keys – Joe Krown
Drums – Sylvester ‘Sam’ Bryant aka ‘Freight Train’
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Set List:
Never Lookin’ Back
Ride Of Your Life
The House Is A Rockin’
Hard Lesson Learned
Baby Got Gone
Down For Love
Heat Of The Sun
Talk To Me Baby
Born With A Broken Heart
Diamonds And Gold
Nothing But The Night
BB (Slow Blues ) You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now
Blue On Black
Words and photo’s Manny Manson