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Keeping the blues alive and well

Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Fox Theatre
Tucson, AZ
September 29, 2015
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Review and photos by Mary Andrews

Kenny Wayne Shepherd took a detour to Tucson from his tour with Van Halen. This was the last show of the year for the band before going home until 2016. The show was special for the band and they deviated from the set list to add a little more spice to the offerings.

Joe Pena and Bill Elm opened with their brand of blues that just happens to be the most authentic Delta blues around to day. Joe Pena sang, played the harmonica, and the steel guitar while Bill Elm played keyboards. Joe's rough, gravely voice made everyone stop chatting, look up and take notice of his soulful delivery. One could close their eyes and imagine Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, or Lightning Hopkins. It was a great start to an evening of the blues.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band started their set 15 minutes early and they were apparently in the mood to play as they played non-stop for two hours! Shepherd is a completely self-taught musician from Louisiana. He started playing guitar professionally at the age of 13. His career has skyrocketed since 1995. He seldom sang early in his career and started a longtime collaboration with, Noah Hunt, as the lead singer. This show found Shepherd singing as well as playing guitar more than any other show to date.

Shepherd started with fast-paced songs from the KWS catalog, "Never Looking Back" and "The House Is Rocking" are fine examples. They slowed the tempo down a few times, but otherwise it was in high gear for two hours. The crowd was a mixture of young and older blues fans that were out of their seats encouraging the band to keep stepping up the vibe to the next level. And step up they did!

Chris Layton of Double Trouble fame played drums, while Tony Franklin who played in the Jimmy Page-led super-group The Firm played bass and Riley Osbourn who has backed up Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett played keyboards. How can you go wrong with a super-group like this? Regardless it is apparent that Kenny was the top showman of the group. He was 'shredding' guitar on his knees, playing guitar over his head and behind his back behind his back and never missing a lick.

Homage was paid to B.B. King with three songs in the set. Mr. King passed away earlier this year. The set contained songs from many of Mr. Sheperd's heroes from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Slim Harpo, to Elmore James. The highlight of the night came with the encore and the band's extended version of Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Nothing was spared as Kenny pumped out fiercely on his weather worn Stratocaster.

When one hears of so many blues legends departing this world, it is easy to forget about the younger blues men keeping up the traditions. Kenny Wayne Shepherd is an important voice in keeping the blues alive and well.
Set List:
1. Never Lookin' Back
2. Everything Is Broken (Bob Dylan cover)
3. The House Is Rocking (Stevie Ray Vaughan cover)
4. King's Highway 5. True Lies
6. Search and Destroy (Iggy and The Stooges cover)
7. Heat of the Sun
8. Talk to Me Baby (Elmore James cover)
9. Deja Voodoo
10. Born With a Broken Heart
11. Breaking Up Somebody's Home
(Albert King cover)
12. Looking Back (Johnny "Guitar" Watson cover)
13. Woke Up This Morning (B.B. King cover)
14. You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (B.B. King cover)
15. Ain't Gonna Worry My Life Anymore (B.B. King cover)
16. (Unknown) (solo Instrumental)

17. Blue on Black
18. I'm a King Bee (Slim Harpo cover)
19. Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
20. Voodoo Child (HendriX cover)

Related articles:

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Los Lonely Boys - Concert review - Tucson, AZ August 2014
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Concert review - Lincolnshire, IL March 2011
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI April 2007
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Kenny Wayne Shepherd

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