The electrified Jonny Lang
BEAVER CREEK – Opening the show with just guitar, bass and drums, in a blues power trio format, Jonny Lang established that he is the real thing as a “guitar phenom.” Spinning out lick after lick, each phrase embellishing the last, Lang effortlessly racheted up the emotion on his standard opening tune “Long Time Coming.”But that was just the first song. Adding keyboards and a second guitarist, Lang proceeded to show just how much he has matured as a singer, writer and concert artist. His signature moves were all there, incredible guitar chops, as well as tortured vocals and facial expressions. However, that was just the start.Building on last year’s Vilar Center acoustic show, a show that many music lovers I know think was the best concert in the valley last year, Lang showed the audience his versatility and his willingness to take stylistic chances. It’s very difficult for a young artist to break out of the mold that brought them success and fame. Lang has done it with aplomb and without losing too many of his original fans. As much as I enjoyed the acoustic show, the full electric band definitely energized Lang. Especially impressive were Lang’s vocals. His amazing range allowed a baritone register full of swampy blues, the expected blues screamer tones and an unexpected soulful falsetto reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson. It was also a surprise to so clearly hear the strong influence of Lang’s hero, Stevie Wonder. Even before the awesome cover of “Livin’for the City,” the rhythms and phrasing of Wonder were evident. Having a reputation as a Fender guitar player, I was a bit surprised when Lang strapped on a Gibson Les Paul. The more round, beefier tone of the Les Paul sang and screamed from his two Fender amps (oddly facing at an angle away from the guitarist, towards the bass player) adding a new timbre to his electric sound. The influence of the King’s (BB, Freddie and Albert) was evident during the evening, but the mature Lang is now his own man. I could listen to him play either guitar all night long, however, he did seem a little more comfortable and familiar with his trusty customized Fender Telecaster. I’ve previously mentioned how lucky we are in the valley to have such an incredible venue as the Vilar Center. I would also like to give credit to the Vilar’s technical staff. The sound, including the guitars, a Hammond B-3 Organ and the bass and drums were perfectly mixed from the first note. That only happens when professionals take the time to do a great sound check. I do greatly prefer the drums without the Plexiglas booth used in previous concerts. Live drums are the best when the kick drum hits you square in the chest. It doesn’t seem necessary to have only amplified sounds from the drums in a room like the Vilar. The lights also added to the show. With, I assume, virtually no rehearsal, the lighting tech found colors and textures that positively accented the music. Even adding a fun psychedelic effect right on the beat (at least right on the beat of the cue the second time through).This was my first Jonny Lang electric show, and I am going to make sure it is not my last. Vail, COlorado
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