Luther Allison
@ The Metropolitan, May 5, 1997

Luther Allison
1997 W.C. Handy Awards
Photo © 1997 by Chuck Winans
Luther's show at the Metropolitan was one of the highlights of the Heart & Soul benefits organized by Mick Sterling for Camp Heartland (a summer camp for children afflicted with HIV). Allison's set started around 10 with G.B. Leighton opening the show. As a result, Allison was only able to do one "short" set (by his standards) of about 2 and 1/2 hours! His "normal" shows are famous for their non stop intensity and length, running anywhere from 3 to 4 hours (like his recent show last year at Bunkers which was a barn burner). One word sums up this show -- "electrifying".

Luther Allison is truly a blues legend and his three recent Alligator CD's (his first recordings in the U.S. in nearly 20 years) Soul Fixin' Man, Blue Streak and the just released Reckless, as well as his awesome live performances have finally brought him the recognition he deserves. In the 1996 Handy awards he swept the top 5 awards, including best performer of the year. This year's W. C. Handy awards saw Luther winning the Blues Entertainer of the Year, the best Blues Band of the Year (with the James Solberg Band), and best Contemporary Male Blues Artist.

This show featured many of the songs from his new Alligator release, Reckless. In the first 45 minutes I think he only did 3 or 4 songs - which featured some very long guitar solos. Allison is a very visual performer with his enthusiastic jump splits, flowing hand gestures and wonderful facial expressions. And he has soooooooo much energy! Just his presence on stage commands your attention...he is a very charismatic performer.

Before the show he commented on how proud he was of his son Bernard's new CD soon to be released on Ron Levy's Cannonball label. After the show he was out in the audience hugging the ladies (and even some of the guys), slapping hands and he even did a short impromptu dance with some wild dancer who had been all over the floor during the show. Luther just didn't want to quit that night.

Part of the exciting finale was an entertaining You Are So Beautiful that continued for another 30 minutes with one song leading into the next with no discernible break in a wonderful mix of soul, rock and blues. One remarkable aspect of Allison's playing is his unique style. I would catch myself recognizing someone else's vocal phrasing, guitar style, song or riff and then find it magically transforming into something altogether new and extraordinary -- something that is completely Luther Allison.
When the show was over they had the drawing for the Gibson Guitar that had been signed by the Handy Award winners. Luther drew the number for the winner and then sang a request a cappella - WOW! This was a wonderful show. Luther Allison is one blues act you definitely must see!

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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