King Center for the Performing Arts/Melbourne, FL • 10.02.16
by Michelle Wilson
My love affair with Jonny Lang’s music began way back in 1998 with the release of Wander This World, the follow-up to 1997’s critically acclaimed, hugely successful Lie To Me. I had never heard of this young guitar phenom with the gritty, whiskey-soaked vocals of a seasoned bluesman, and I was absolutely blown away. Over the years, I have had the privilege of attending, photographing and reviewing many of Lang’s emotionally powerful performances, including those with the Experience Hendrix tour, and I also have had the honor of meeting him. He is one of the nicest, most genuine people in the music biz, and his passionate intensity for his craft is on full display during every concert. With several more records released over the years, the Grammy-award winning artist brought his stellar show to the King Center, and church was indeed in session. Backed by guitarist Court Clement, bassist Andrew Perusi, drummer Barry Alexander and keyboardist Keith Rogers, the band pumped out an hour and forty minutes of gut-wrenching, blues-drenched soul to a house full of appreciative fans.
Opening at 7pm sharp with “Blew Up the House” from his latest release, 2013’s Fight For My Soul, Lang wowed the crowd with a potpourri of classics covering all of his albums including “Don’t Stop,” “Turn Around” and “That Great Day” from 2006’s release, Turn Around, “Lie to Me,” the jazz-infused “Rack ‘Em Up” and the Tinsley Ellis cover, “A Quitter Never Wins” off Lie To Me, “Red Light” and the Stevie Wonder classic, “Living For the City” from 2003’s Long Time Coming and “Angel of Mercy” and “Breakin’ Me” from Wander This World. Lang treated fans to several guitar changes throughout the evening, swapping among instruments including his custom Fender Telecaster Thinline, his Gibson 1958 Les Paul Standard reissue and his Martin J-40 acoustic.
Highlights from the night included Lang’s usual extended jam during “Red Light” morphing into the Bob Marley/audience interactive chant “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” from “No Woman, No Cry,” as well as the solo acoustic encore of “Breakin’ Me” and “Lie To Me,” both with a decidedly Latin flair and the latter including the band halfway through the song. It was also a pleasant surprise to hear “Rack ‘Em Up” from his early years, and his gorgeous offering of “That Great Day” with a phenomenal guitar solo from Clement was a real gem.
While Lang’s style certainly has evolved over the years to incorporate a bit more soul and jazz, his skill and versatility remain constant. His shows are always guitar-driven, high-energy flashes of brilliance, and Lang plays it as he feels it. The whole point of a live show is to hear something different than the record – and that’s what you get. Because who wants to hear the record at a live show? Not me, that’s for sure. Lang and his band deliver, and they deliver big time.