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Concert Review: Johnny Winter Band, 9/17/09 at B.B. King’s Blues Club in NYC

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Each year when hubby and I make our pilgrimage from Parrot Cay to New York City we go online and plan our musical activities. The first place we always check is B.B. King’s Blues Club in Times Square, as it is the perfect intimate venue to see live music, have a few beers, and be 20 feet away from the performers.

So when we saw that Johnny Winter and his band (currently Vito Liuzzi on drums, Paul Nelson on guitar, and Scott Spray on bass) were going to be performing there, we planned to return from our family trip a day early to see him live. Hubby had last seen Johnny and his brother Edgar Winter about 30 years ago, but I had never seen the Guitar Slinger live. Plus there is the age factor. We saw Les Paul live at Iridium last year and were glad we did since that option was very sadly not available anymore. And Johnny Winter is, shall we say, getting up there.

While Winter often plays on a solo bill, the hard-rocking blues guitarist/vocalist Debbie Davies opened on this night. Playing a short set of eight songs, including some new instrumentals — an homage to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown particularly stood out — from her upcoming CD, she set the stage well for Johnny and his band.

In true kung fu master style, this very wizened gentleman in black and silver was escorted to his chair and microphone on stage, where he was given his guitar. He loosened his hands, caressed the frets along the neck and suddenly, with the first note, Johnny Winter became a powerful force of pure, raw guitar magic. He literally seemed to become more alive the more he played, not even once breaking a sweat. His age doesn't even remotely show in his playing.

As the walls exploded with the hard, Texas-driven music that is the signature of this man known as the Guitar Slinger, he played a set that included such songs as "Annie Mae," "Red House," "Miss Ann," "Throwdown" (with Vito on vocals), and "Mojo Boogie." And of course, he also played his trademark version of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited."

Jon Paris, former band member for Winter and current Monday night regular at Lucille’s, joined in with his harp for a rousing version of "Blackjack."

By the end of the night, we knew we'd just witnessed a legendary singer and guitarist ply his craft. I encourage anyone with an appreciation of electric and slide guitar to seek out the Johnny Winter Band while they are touring — it is an awesome experience!

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