If you thought you loved the original version of Jonny Lang’s first big hit “Lie To Me” then you will not know what hit you when he falls into a slow pining acoustic version that will build and build until finally exploding into a meteor storm of electric guitar artistry about mid-way through his blisteringly hot set at the New Orleans House Of Blues. It was amazing to the naked ear.
But having said that, Jonny Lang is more than “Lie To Me”. His young voice and soul completely gets taken over by the spirit of Al Green and his Lord above. His music feels like it comes from somewhere ethereal via a Stratocaster heartbeat and his emotions are clearly apparent on his expressive face. You cannot fake this stuff. Blues is not something you can learn from any published songbook; you just have to be born with the potion already somewhere in your bloodstream. And this young man lives and breathes every note he feedbacks to the audience in front of him.
Before Jonny and his band took to the stage, Kristin Diable, a local singer-songwriter with a steamy Americana voice and a foot-stomping heartbeat-pulsing affinity, served up some spicy original numbers and old goodies. Accompanied by Casey McAllister on guitar, Kristin’s set was just the right Tabasco to get the crowd ready for Jonny Lang. She felt her songs, hip-swaying when the tone took her over, whooping it up when the emotion was just right. She had everyone clapping along with her long before she had to give up the spotlight.
Chatting with her before the show, Kristin was looking forward to this opportunity to keep proving her chops and getting her music out there to even more people. With several recordings under her belt, she storm trooped through a bad ass rendition of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband” and lamented achingly on “Sexy Sadie”. She is like an estrogenized Woody Guthrie.
And then came Jonny, all smiles and amplification. He got the crowd off from the beginning and rarely stood still to re-energize. With his superb band backing him, this young man had nothing to worry about. He could just go. With the likes of Barry Alexander on drums and Jason Eskridge belting out some powerful soul, especially on the Stevie Wonder hit “Living For The City”, it was a sweat-slinging night all the way around.
“Don’t be afraid to move around,” Jonny told everyone who were crowded together in a venue that gets small really quick as it fills to capacity. Jonny was loving this, especially during “I Am” when the band went into their instrumental spotlights. “These guys are my heroes,” he shouted as sweat towels were thrown at guitarist Akil Thompson upon his crescendo. They were having fun and that definitely spilled over to those who were watching.
Highlights were many. “A Quitter Never Wins” was but one song that featured passionate playing. “Don’t Stop”, “40 Days & 40 Nights”, “Thankful”, “Turnaround” and “Lie To Me” were all in the stratosphere.
Jonny Lang started his career at a young age. Hailed as one of the future kids of blues, he has pursued his music to more spiritual heights than his brothers-in-arms Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Tyler Bryant. With an affirmation of strong faith and a much healthier lifestyle, Jonny has stepped into his destiny quite nicely. Let’s hope that he never loses the passion or the desire to keep creating music that touches the soul.
Setlist: Don’t Stop (For Anything), A Quitter Never Wins, Turnaround, Red Light, Living For The City, Thankful, Breakin’ Me, Lie To Me, Rack’em Up, I Am. ENCORE: Other Side Of The Fence, 40 Days & 40 Nights.