Luther Allison
@ The Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, July 11, 1997
By Deb Brunsberg

Luther Allison - 7/11/97
Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater
Photo © 1997 by Tom Asp
More photos at bottom of review
It is not all that often that I see a performer who literally takes my breath away, yet that is exactly what happened on Friday night, July 11th at the MN Zoo Amphitheater. After getting all juiced up by Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, Luther Allison and the James Solberg Band left me gasping for air.

In an atmosphere of heat and humidity, it took all of two minutes to get me out of the stands and up front and center to witness this amazing man. I had never seen Luther Allison before. I'd read about his career, had listened to my husband rave about his live performances, enjoyed his CD's and rated them very fine blues, but no studio recording had been able to capture the sheer energy and soul of Luther on stage. All it took was one song with Luther's scorching guitar and raspy vocals belting out the blues and it was obvious that the crowd was watching a master at work.

The approximately eighty minute set covered many of the songs from the last two critically acclaimed releases "Reckless" and "Blue Streak." A lengthy, slow tune that featured some of the smoothest guitar around was "Living in the House of the Blues." Luther's vocal ability made one believe that he had done his time living in the house of blues.

Luther knows how to keep the fans enthralled. His songs flowed and carried the crowed along with him. His band was tight and talented. They gave Luther the back up to showcase his powerful skill with his guitars and vocals. On several occasions, his guitar would be switched mid-song so that broken strings could be replaced. He was cruisin' the blues and everyone was along for the ride.

Luther Allison - 7/11/97
Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater
Photo © 1997 by Tom Asp
Everyone in the crowd went wild as the first heavy notes of "Cherry Red Wine" filled the air. This seems to be everyone's favorite song. I was torn between wanting to watch every note being played and closing my eyes and just letting the force of the song wash over me. James Solberg shared the scorching solo with Luther.

Luther switched to slide during the closing song of the show. He played slide guitar as effortlessly as he did everything else. Luther walked off the stage, onto the grass and up to the fans surrounding the stage. As he played, the people on both sides of me were reacting like it was 1963 and the Beatles had landed. I felt like I was as close as I would ever be to one of the greatest blues musicians of all time. One lucky fan, even after several shakes of his head "no," got Luther to stop his playing for a few seconds while he autographed her CD and left her with a smile. Much to the fans dismay, when the show is over at the zoo, it is over. No encores. As the fans finally gave up and began to leave, I decided to forget that I was 41 years old and supposedly a grown up. I scooted up onto the grass across the stage and asked a young man for one of Luther's broken guitar strings. I got one! I felt like I had been handed a winning lottery ticket. Perfect ending to a perfect show.

Monday morning as I was still living under the glow that only a superb blues night can create, I found out that Luther Allison had been diagnosed with lung cancer and brain tumors. He was diagnosed the day before he appeared at the zoo. I am in awe that he went on with the show and played for us. I pray for his recovery.

More Photos of Luther Allison

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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