They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and on the evidence of a
packed Koko crowd, plenty of people have missed Kenny Wayne Shepherd
since he last hit these shores in the mid 90's.
interim he's grown up, become a dad and carved out a stop-start
recording career that has seen him established as a rock/blues guitar
protégé, then reborn again as a bona fide rock star, before a glance
over his shoulder at his blues roots on '10 Days Out', a blues
documentary, highlights of which were meant to open tonight's show but
for a malfunction with house equipment.
Unperturbed, the band hit the stage with fiery intent powering their way
through 4 segued tracks from the new 'How I Go' album before revisiting
selected parts of the Kenny's back catalogue including the enduring
groove of 'Deja Voodoo' (from 'Ledbetter Heights') and the Hendrix
inflected melody line of 'While We Cry'.
curiously with so much to fall back on there was nothing from his rock
album 'The Place You're In' or indeed the blues album '10 Days Out'
You felt tonight was all about Kenny reclaiming his rock-blues guitar
crown and over the course of a pulsating 90 minute set he did exactly
KWS provided the scintillating chops and his long time vocalist Noah
Hunt added a rich baritone to some solid material, the band had to work
hard to achieve a musical triumph over a lack of charisma.
always something of a dilemma when a guitarist isn't the natural lead
vocalist in the band and Kenny was smart enough to add harmonies and
occasionally duet with his partner. But with Noah cutting a fairly
static figure not given to on stage histrionics, it was left to Kenny to
occasionally step out to the front of the stage and deliver some
part, Noah busied himself with a succession of rock vocalist poses,
meaningful shapes and an occasional use of a Robert Plant style,
diagonally held mic stand, none of which compensated for the apparent
unbridgeable gap between thrilling music and a lack of intuitive stage
with a fine new album and a band that included the pivotal figures of
Tony Franklin on bass (The Firm) and Chris Layton on drums (Double
Trouble), the gig exploded from the start with the riff driven pile
driver 'Never Looking Back' and the heavy duty shuffle 'Butterfly',
before a rather pedestrian 'Nevermind' from the 'Live On' album.
It was a
fleeting lull in the set as Kenny cranked things up on a cover of The
Beatles 'Yer Blues' and then offered the subtly contrasting early career
groove of 'Deja Hoodoo'.
Of the newer
material, 'Come On Over' was a vocal tour de force, with a lovely
stop-time phrase and a delayed 'she says' lyrical line that gave the
catchy chorus its sharp dynamic.
And as if to
balance the set the band slipped into a slow blues 'Shame Shame Shame'
on which Noel phrased eloquently and Kenny's solo was as close to a
musical conversation as you will ever get. Kenny also referenced his
blues heroes on the intro of the song and leant into some Stevie Ray
And as if to
show that he's learnt every facet of his hero's playing he added some
blistering rhythm on the rather mundane choice of 'Let The Good Time
Roll', a cover that in fairness he transformed into something special.
And that indeed was a fair summation of the evening.
occasionally wondered about the choice of material from the boogie metal
version of Peter Green's 'Oh Well' to the belated rocky version of 'King
Bee' but each time the band pulled it off.
The rapturously received encore also included the hit 'Blue On Black' on
which Noah evoked Paul Rogers and Bad Company. And on an evening when
KWS had been all things to all people, he climaxed an exuberating show
with a double helping of Hendrix's 'Voodoo Child', including 'Slight
Return' on a hotly anticipated but intensely played finale to the
perfect come back show.