Doyle Bramhall II
Capitol Theatre; Clearwater, FL • January 20, 2017
by Michelle Wilson
It’s always a treat to venture over to Florida’s West Coast music scene, where they seem to “get” it just a bit more than the East Coast portion of the state. The beautiful Capitol Theatre is about as far west as you can get, just moments from the shore and in the heart of a quaint, little tourist spot brimming with character and charm. Throw in a friendly, accommodating staff coupled with killer acoustics and you have the makings of a stellar evening of music with one of today’s most talented and versatile artists, Doyle Bramhall II.
As guitarist, producer or writer, Bramhall has collaborated with countless musicians from Eric Clapton to Roger Waters to Gregg Allman to Elton John to Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi to Sheryl Crow, and the list goes on and on. Bramhall has also toured extensively with Experience Hendrix, and even has a Jimi Hendrix cover on his new album. But on this night, it was all about Bramhall and his unique style, which incorporates left-handed guitar playing with upside-down strings, bending them downward for a distinct sound similar to Albert King and Otis Rush. Bramhall is highly recognized for his gifted guitar work and sought after among his musical peers.
Taking the stage at 9:05 pm and supported by an ultra-tight band including drummer/tenor saxophonist/singer Anthony Cole, bassist Ted Pecchio and keyboardist/guitarist/drummer/singer, Adam Minkoff, Bramhall poured forth 10 of the 13 tracks off his brilliant new release, Rich Man, during his 90-minute set. Highlights included incredible versions of “The Veil,” “My People,” “Keep You Dreamin’,” “Cries of Ages,” “Mama Can’t Help You,” “Hands Up,” with a blistering keys solo from Minkoff, “New Faith,” “Saharan Crossing,” accented by the “switch-up” that the band has become known for, with Minkoff moving to drums and Cole on tenor sax and “The Samanas,” featuring intense harmonies from Minkoff. About halfway through the show, Bramhall performed a gut-wrenching version of “November,” explaining to the crowd that he wrote it for his father, Doyle Bramhall, also a renowned musician who passes away a few years ago. Interestingly, Bramhall included nothing from his last record, Welcome (2001), but he did pay homage to one of his musical influences, The Beatles, with a cover of “Flying.” Cole took lead vocals at one point with a funky cover of The Meters’ “Africa,” which really got the crowd going.
Playing until 10:30 pm with a five-minute break, the band returned to the stage and Bramhall mentioned that the band had been practicing the next one just for this show, which happened to coincide with Inauguration Day. On a day when an artist’s political commentary could have gone horribly wrong, Bramhall chose instead to take the high road and simply made his statement through song, breaking into a rousing cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Choice of Color,” famously recorded by Mayfield’s band, The Impressions. Even though this came out in 1969, the message is still as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even more so. Finishing it off with “I’m Leavin'” from 1999’s Jellycream, the 90 minutes were over in the blink of an eye at 10:35pm, and the fans definitely got their money’s worth.
If you’ve never seen Doyle Bramhall II live, or even if you are not familiar with his music, check out his live show if the opportunity presents itself. He is the real deal, an all-around consummate musician who is constantly reinventing himself and striving for new sounds, remaining true to himself through his music.