Last Saturday evening the Fox Theater in Redwood City, CA was treated to a healthy dose of Blues Rock, brought to them courtesy of the phenominal blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Shepherd and his four band mates, which includes singer Noah Hunt, drummer Chris Layton (Double Trouble) and bassist Kevin McCormick took the stage just before 9p.m. and played for 2 solid hours.
At the age of 40, this young guitar slinger is a shooting star in the world of blues rock, and has been honing his skills for more than 22 years. He picked up a guitar at the age of 4, met Stevie Ray Vaughan at the age of 7, and played on stage at 13. His career path has been on an upwards rise ever since. Having had multiple Grammy nominations, multiple certified Gold and Platinum albums, and taking almost every album to #1 on Billboard’s Blues charts, Shepherd is well on his way to claiming a spot among the legends.
He has surrounded himself with excellent talent, having Noah Hunt take the vocals duties for over 20 years. His tenor voice has matured over the years and can cover their songs and others masterfully.
From the outset of their night, starting with “Never Looking Back” the boys took control of the crowd and didn’t let go. Shepherd’s awesome guitar playing incorporates many of the masters’ licks and yet makes every song his own. On SRV’s “This House is Rockin’ ” (and with Layton on drums!) they floored it, causing everyone in a seat to get up and dance.
Throughout the rest of the show Shepherd and the band took us all on a roller-coaster of musical emotion, as the blues usually does. Extending and trading solos is a tradition in live music which these guys all do so well. And keeping traditions alive comes to life when they cover artist from the past. They made way for one by Elmore James called “Talk to me Baby”, then did a killer medley tribute to B.B. King., turning one song into another and trading off between guitar and keyboards. Soulful and swinging, they had fans dancing in the alcoves, seats, and aisles throughout the theater.
After a much needed 5 minute break, the group returned to the stage for a few more. Though Shepherd claimed early on that “you’d all get up and leave if we played that one”, I doubt that would have happened had they broke out “Blue on Black” in the first half hour. But as an encore song, it really makes you hang on. They may have slowed the pace of it just a tad, but they nailed it as good as I’ve ever heard it played. Hunt mentioned it was a special song for them and told the waiting crowd it was recorded here in Northern California. And as a KWS show has gone for the last few years, the last song has been reserved for one last cover. Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” was that song. Shepherd played it without hesitation as Hunt belted out the lyrics in that smoothly roughened voice, and brought the house down with a long outro solo.
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