The house was packed the first day of December and an electric sense of anticipation crackled the air. Although alcohol was served, it was not needed to ramp up this audience. My internal monologue kept looping: Oh my God, Jonny Lang is here at the Rogue Theatre! And indeed there he was in his Pink Floyd sweatshirt and tight jeans looking at least 10 years younger than his 36 years (he’ll be 37 next month). With a boyish grin he raked back his long crew cut and launched into a loud, raucous blues/ rock number. And thus began one of the best live performances I have ever seen. We got some of his older stuff as well as cuts from his recently released album Signs which this tour is clearly meant to promote. Of course there were some raw blues numbers and in recent interviews, Lang has said he was moved to return to his roots and his musical icons like Howlin’ Wolf.
Some elegant jazz tunes emerged as well as some swampy gospel, then some mesmerizing blues again plus more hard, loud, rock. Near the end of the set Lang broke into Red Light but slowed it down and let his spiritual message gently float over the crowd, nothing pushy but Lang has been clear in interviews that he had a profound spiritual experience years ago and it has informed his life and his music ever since. Fans at that time worried that he would lose his juice but I am here to tell you that it just got better. The encore number was, of course, Lie to Me but again the pace initially was slow and raw. Then he and the band picked up the tempo and closed the set with the audience on their feet. Lang is generous in his acknowledgement of his band mates and each had at least one solo with Lang seemingly enjoying the performance as much as the audience. Barry Alexander on drums was top flight as was Tyrus Sass on keyboards. Jimmy Anton whaled on the bass and Zane Carney on rhythm and lead guitar was every bit as technically proficient as Lang and that said, I have never seen anyone play with such passion and intensity as Lang. It is what sets him apart and why fans adore him. Carney, in fact, opened for Lang and gave a masterful performance with jazz, blues, rock and folk numbers. He has his own band and has collaborated, played with or opened for some legendary groups to include U2 and The Black Crowes. He mentioned that he and Jonny have known each other since they were kids and I can see these two growing up together, each musical prodigies, each following different but eventually converging paths. It was a privilege to be in the house this past Friday and if you have not yet seen Jonny Lang, put it on your “Ten things I need to do before I leave the planet” list. To quote Chuck Berry again, “Jonny Be Good!”
Catch you on the flip side.