It's been over 3 years since my then teenage son Robby called me into the family room to watch that now infamous 'Jonny Lang Band' special on the Disney channel to check this 'phenomenon' from another planet blasting away The Blues with a touch of history from many of our cherished Blue's artists and from my perspective a little Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendricks thrown in the mix.
It had been a long time since any musician and/or band caught my attention, the most recent being Pearl Jam and Silverchair (from Australia). But this Jonny Lang Band….It was unreal and I became a big fan.
Since that December '97 I've been fortunate enough to see the Jonny Lang Band in live performances 45 times. February 15th was to be at the House of Blues in Las Vegas and my 46th live concert and it was one of the most memorable for several reasons.
Before this concert my last was November 2nd, 2000 at the Key club in Los Angeles, a very small venue that was 'intimate' in it's own right and a benefit performance to help out a young man needing support of friends. It was indeed a special evening. Unknown to us at that time it was to be the last time we'd see Doug Nelson, bass guitarist and beloved friend of so many. Doug's untimely and tragic passing four days later shocked us all.
As with tragic occurrences we grieve and mourn and remember the good times...and then we move on, not forgetting but renewing our spirits in a positive way.
The year 2001 was upon us all. The Jonny Lang Band was working on a new CD. Billy Thommes (Drums), Bruce McCabe (Keyboard), Paul Diethelm (Rhythm guitar) and the 2000 addition of David Eiland (on the Saxophone) were still in place. Billy Franze joined the band on Bass guitar and the Jonny Lang Band was off to a renewed start. Let's not forget that Jonny was to leave his teenage years in late January turning 20 years old.
So it was with lots of anticipation my older son Nate and 7 of our friends flew to Las Vegas for a few days of "getaway." The focus of the trip was the concert at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. The Jonny Lang Band was back on tour on the mainland, just returning from four concerts in Hawaii.
I couldn't wait.
Being generally familiar with the 'set' of songs after attending so many concerts made no difference to me. Jonny wore his traditional cargo gray pants and a black t-shirt, just the Jonny or 'any other young man his age' look. We weren't there to see a fashion show; it's just about the music. Opening with Still Rainin', it's always fun to take people to see Jonny the first time. Four of those with us hadn't seen him perform live before. That was a great introduction. Of course the 'wake up call' is A Quitter Never Wins and followed up non-stop by Good Morning Little School Girl.
Jonny's concerts literally run non-stop for about a hour and 50 minutes. That's after Sue Foley's grand opener for 40 minutes that the crowd loved.
As I like to say Jonny was 'on it' all night as was the entire band. The band did super performances of The Levee, the always favorite Rack'em up, Missing Your Love, 'The Irish love song', Before You Hit The Ground and Second Guessing. There were a few new songs that he's done the past 8 Months or so that are great but titles unknown. Of course the highlight of the main performance is The Jonny Lang Band's rendition of I Am, where Jonny and David do a Guitar/Sax 'duel' that just brings ovations every time; a 'goose bump' producer!
What's really neat is Jonny doesn't forget about the strengths of the other band members and everyone gets to flaunt their talent which I think is great. Paul gets out there and screams on his guitar. He used to do a 'dueling guitar' number with Jonny. With the Sax 'duel' now, Paul is still given the opportunity to show his wares which I really look forward to. Bruce and Billy and Billy (on Bass) get their shots in too. Jonny's band always has been a strong team effort of accomplished musicians. They are just a treat to see perform live.
The Jonny Lang Band leaves the stage after I Am and responds to the crowd's cheers and call to return to the stage where they close out with Wander This World, an absolutely soul deep rendition of Breakin' Me with Jonny playing the acoustic guitar and the finale no less, an outbreak of Lie To Me with the crowd standing and singing along.
Wow...The Jonny Lang Band is back. Once you've attended one of Jonny's live performances the CD's provide only a temporary 'fix' until the next live concert. In my case I only had to wait two days !
The House of Blues at Disneyland on February 17th was my 47th.
I haven't planned the 48th, 49th and 50th yet (one of those will be Heart and Soul hopefully in the Twin Cities) but we are all anticipating Jonny's new CD to be released later this year. The Jonny Lang Band 2001...awesome year looking ahead.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Ron Heller, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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