Magic Slim kicked off March with an energetic and inspired performance before a good, enthusiastic crowd despite the fast falling snow outside. Magic brought his own version of West Side Chicago Blues into Rochester, backed by veteran players on bass, guitar and drums. He wove together a strong first set of covers like "Walking Cane" with originals like "Where You Going Tonight." Playing guitar without sound effects, he nonetheless produces more guitar sound and power than many younger players with all the electronic toys. Using thumb and index finger picks, Magic creates repeating waves of guitar chords. And he has the ability to go from strong and powerful to soft and subtle suddenly to emphasize points in a song.
Magic's version of "Sky is Crying" was nothing like Stevie Ray Vaughn's, yet equally pleasing. Singing emotionally with his strong, gruff voice Magic played some great fills here and showed off the full range of his guitar slinging ability. He bent, plucked, and held the strings, using his fingers occasionally as a slide. Magic finished his first set with two songs about the heartaches and joys of love, passionately singing his tales of woe.
Magic got his second set rolling right away with "Bad Boy," another tale of a guilty, repenting man who's on his way back home and hopes his woman forgives him when he gets there. Magic did some beautiful, melodic picking on this up-tempo song, again using his hand as a slide. Magic went way back in the alley for the gritty blues grinder, "There Ain't Nothing I Wouldn't Do for You." He had his guitar screaming and wailing as he moved the tempo of the song up and down as he steadily built the volume of his and the bands playing and singing to a climax.
Probably the one song that impressed me the most with Magic's performance was his version of "Mustang Sally." I know many hardcore fans and blues performers cannot stand this song, and I am usually one of them. Yet Magic's enthusiastic and talented performance on vocals and guitar as he stomped about on stage can't help but inspire the most jaded listener to sing along on the refrain and get up and dance. Magic gave a long, creative performance of the song, improvising on both vocals and guitar as he mugged for the crowd. He had three-fourths of the crowd on their feet dancing madly, screaming and cheering as he brought it home.
Magic closed with a long, up-tempo version of Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago," that again had the crowd singing along on the refrain and cheering Magic's guitar playing and passionate singing. Magic may be getting a little slower and need to sit down and play some to conserve energy, but when it counts he can still hammer the blues and rock with anyone. Even his drummer Al was exhausted by keeping up with Magic, commenting, "I'm getting too old for this." Magic was also backed by solid players Michael Johnson on guitar/vocals and Danny O'Connor on bass/vocals. Magic was also at Famous Dave's in Minneapolis on Friday, March 15th.
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