Blues on fire
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 12:10
An enthusiastic audience warmly greeted blues musicians Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang and Shemekia Copleand at Monster Blues II, a highly energized concert event that was featured at the Star Plaza Theatre on October 13.
Shemekia Copleand, dressed in all-black ensemble, was the opening act. Many of the songs in her set were from her recently released album, “33 1/3,” the title of which functions as both a tribute to her love of vinyl albums and as a reference to her age when the album came out.
She introduced “Lemon Pie” as a song that does not have anything to do with pie. Instead, the song is about being poor and struggling to make it in America today. Copeland’s voice was rich and full during this song and set the tone for her performance. “Mississippi Mud” showed that her band was working with her cohesively, rather than just going through the motions.
Copeland also took a strong feminist stance while performing. She told the ladies in the audience that she was dedicating one of her songs to them, and said that she had something that she wanted them all to do that night when they got home. “I want you take off all your clothes, stand naked in front of a mirror, and yell out ‘I am the most beautiful woman in the world!’” That statement brought the house down. After her show, Copeland was in the lobby of the theatre, graciously signing autographs and posing for pictures for anyone who wanted one.
Jonny Lang was the second performer of the night. When he put out his first album while he was still a teenager, he was acclaimed for his guitar playing skills, but had to endure criticism for his singing style. Now in his 30s, his singing has improved. Lang’s voice has toughened up from a teenage whine to a veteran blues man’s howl, something that many years of experience has given him.
Lang’s guitar playing is still top-notch. He strutted confidently across the stage, often with his eyes shut, his head tilted back, playing with a stunning ferocity that was exciting to watch. He even kept his cool when an overly-enthusiastic young woman in the front row took off one of her shoes and slid it across the stage. When he returned it to her, he even joked, “I should just be glad that you didn’t throw it at me.”
Highlights of Lang’s set included “Red Light,” a long-time favorite of his live shows, that featured a lengthy, but stunning guitar solo and the seemingly endlessly-repeated refrain, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” was given an outstanding blues-rock treatment.
Buddy Guy has been a highly respected guitar player since the 1960s, influencing everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and winning six Grammys over the years. Dressed in a loud, multi-colored shirt and white pants, Guy began his portion of the show with an electrifying version of his 1991 song, “Damn Right I've Got the Blues.” Guy put his own stamp on a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which has been an important part of his concerts for years.
Guy often featured many different guitar playing tricks as part of the entertainment, including rubbing it on his chest; playing it on his shoulder; even grabbing a drum stick and using it like a violin bow on the strings. Guy’s live sets often feature him taking his guitar with him into the audience as he plays, and this show was no exception. During “Drowning on Dry Land,” he left the stage and walked around the audience, playing the entire time without missing a note. By the time he had returned to the stage, he had received thunderous applause.
Guy was smiling, laughing and telling stories about his early years as a struggling musician throughout the entire show. He also encouraged audience participation, asking them to sing along to “Someone Else is Steppin’ In (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ In).” Guy’s son Greg came out on the stage with a polka-dot guitar to play “Feels Like Rain,” and more singing along was encouraged.
All three performers were definitely “on fire” for the whole evening, and there was not a dull or wasted moment to be had. Monster Blues II was a smashing success.