When Stevie Ray Vaughan walked onstage at Montreaux in 1982, he was the first artist ever to appear as an unsigned talent at one of the most esteemed venues in the world. Unsigned he was, his deal with Epic that resulted in Stevie's entire catalog, for the most part, didn't come until his return to the States. What the fans at Montreaux were expecting, and what Stevie and his band, Double Trouble delivered, were two entirely different things. Most of the performers had been acoustic acts, but Vaughan plugged in his trusted and well-battered Fender Stratocaster and proceeded to crush the crowd with forceful power trio blues.
With Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon laying a cement-hardened foundation, Stevie Ray simply went to work doing what he did best, unleashing brutal blues guitar prowess and husky, whiskey-soaked vocals. His reward at his first Montreaux appearance was less than what he deserved. Leading off with Freddy King's "Hideaway" and blowing straight into "Rude Mood," Vaughan's one-two punch met with a fair amount of applause, but also noticeable were a number of displeased folks voicing their opinion through audible boos and some heckling. Undaunted, he carried on and plowed through "Pride And Joy," a storming Texas shuffle, and followed up with Larry Davis' slow blues tour-de-force, "Texas Flood." More crowd disappointment showed at the song's end, and Vaughan tore into "Love Struck Baby," played at breakneck speed, showing his well-seasoned use of thick chords and blazing leads. From there, the band rose to yet another challenge and laid into "Dirty Pool," a slow and burning minor-key blues. Stevie Ray's voice was in top form and his guitar playing was mind-boggling in its seemingly effortless attack, and his use of dynamics was spot-on as he brought things to a whisper, and then unleashed a searing fusillade to signal the closing verse, yet he met with more disapproval from the jaded audience. From there, the trio blazed through Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig," with Vaughan to pulling out his slide for some gutbucket electric bottleneck, something he did a little too infrequently. He closed his set with another roaring instrumental, "Collins Shuffle," from the pen of another guitar slinging Texan who influenced Stevie immensely.
After a forty-two minute performance that included everything necessary in a great blues performance, Vaughan left the stage to mixed reactions, and while the satisfied far outweighed the less-enthralled number, Vaughan was disappointed and wondered where he'd gone wrong. He hadn't, as a little time would prove.
Stevie and Double Trouble returned to Switzerland in 1985, this time bringing Reese Wynans along who added solid keyboard work to a gripping seventy-six minute set. The quartet launched into "Scuttle Buttin' " and it was evident at the brief interval before heading into "Soul To Soul," that he had the crowd in the palms of his massive hands. By this time though, Stevie and his cohorts had been thrilling audiences and critics worldwide following the release of his first couple of long-player recordings. Vaughan had become a respected American blues guitar hero. "Ain't Gone N' Give Up On Love" came next with torrid Albert King-like string bending and an even more ferocious vocal style, aged by the road, long nights of alcohol consumption, and other habits, and then Stevie bored into "Pride And Joy," this time to thunderous approval. "Mary Had A Little Lamb," from Buddy Guy came next, after which Stevie pulled out all the stops, or so the crowd thought, with "Tin Pan Alley." With Johnny Copeland at his side, Vaughan reared back and let loose with furious leads and followed them up with quiet and restrained passages, and after singing the first verse, Copeland took the to the microphone and matched Stevie's intensity. lock, stock, and barrel. After thirteen minutes, the audience might well have been spent, but Vaughan took to the stratosphere and ripped through Jimi Hendrix' old favorite, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" to deafening applause. He shined, as did his bandmates, on "Texas Flood," and then "Life Without You." Stevie hadn't forgotten what had transpired on his last outing to this venue, and before heading into the song, he reminded the crowd that his first time there had also brought a couple other firsts; "the first time we ever got booed, the first time we got a Grammy." Indeed! "Gone Home" showed the Swiss, and anyone else in attendance, that not only could this band play jazz correctly, they could also play it with authority and maturity. Closing out with "Couldn't Stand The Weather," Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble exited the hallowed theater to heartfelt applause from a crowd pleased, satisfied, and positive that they had witnessed one of the finest performances ever at Montreaux.
I'd be willing to bet that there were more than a few who had seen Vaughan's first trip to the Swiss shores a short time before, and also willing to bet that some had even joined in the heckling. But after landing a Grammy, issuing solid recordings, and touring relentlessly, Vaughan proved to this jaded audience that neither he, nor his cohorts, were flukes. They were around for the long haul, or so we had hoped.
"Live At Montreaux 1982 & 1985" is a stunning document to the power that Stevie Ray Vaughan possessed. Along with the two hours of roaring blues guitar wizardry and smoldering vocals, the 2-disc set features a twenty-plus page booklet with interesting liner notes and thoughts written by Stevie and an odd cast, along with many rare photographs. While some of these performances were previously available on "Live Alive," the entire package is the way to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble. Sound quality is exceptional and by visiting www.epicrecords.com/srv or www.srvdoubletrouble.com - you can learn more.
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