Thursday, May 21, 2009

New stars and legends close out Doheny Blues fest

Day 2 brings more thrills at the 12th annual event in Dana Point
Imagine the poor concert-goer who didn't bother to show up early on Sunday morning, May 17, to catch the early part of day 2 at the 12th Annual Doheny Blues Festival.
After all, Keb' Mo' (seen here in a photo I took that morning) performed an hourlong solo acoustic show on the Backporch Stage that allowed fans to get up close to the singer-songwriter.
Performing a 13-song set comprised mostly of requests from the large and enthusiastic audience packed around the small stage, the Los Angeles native used a number of different guitars and a harmonica, and chatted with the audience and told stories in an intimate setting rarely afforded the artist.
From the unprompted clap-along as he performed "Angelina" and gorgeous "Victims of Comfort," Keb' Mo's Sunday morning performance will long rank as one of my favorite sets in the long and strong history of the blues fest. His beautiful performance of "Just Like You," humorous "Keep It Simple" and love song for blues music, "Prosperity Blues," all were delivered wonderfully.
Throughout the day ahead, more magic followed. Coco Montoya, armed with a big and authentic voice and fiery guitar chops to match, unleashed high-powered electric rock blues on the Renaissance Stage, including "Last Dirty Deal," with his voice recalling the soulful delivery of Robert Cray.
Anyone familiar with singer-guitarist Tommy Castro already knows the guy can tear it up on lead guitar and has a convincing voice capable of singing with force. Performing with his Legendary R&B Revue, Castro's past appearances in Dana Point and at the nearby Coach House were bested Sunday as he teamed with an ensemble that included two horn players and the guest vocals of singer Janiva Magness. I caught a good deal of the set, and Magness's lead vocals on "Workin' on Me Baby" were enhanced by Castro's backing vocals.
Although there were also solid performances from Phillip Walker and the Hollywood Blue Flames (with Kirk "Eli" Fletcher" always a joy to watch as he plays guitar), as well as a high-energy set of Cajun music on the Renaissance stage in the early afternoon, the evening was not to be missed.
The Derek Trucks Band is simply incredible, with the 29-year-old Trucks a master of a style of guitar in which he uses a slide to achieve both melodic and textured sounds. From the beginning of his band's 90-minute set, he played with a kind of sonic explosiveness that exceeds conventional guitarists who play fast while sacrificing an audience's emotional desire to actually connect with the songs.
On Sunday, Trucks and the other members of his band undoubtedly made countless new fans with a powerful display. Legendary singer-guitarist Elvin Bishop joined the band on stage for one song, with both Trucks and Bishop playing slide guitar in tandem for a historic performance, while the Derek Trucks Band's members showcased songcraft and growing artistry with a performance of "Get What You Deserve."
Trucks' technique was a perfect fit for the Doheny fest; for those who wanted to get lost in the intensity, the band thrills. For those who wanted to hang back, it has an equally magical impact.
Omega Events has continued to find ways to expand the reach of audiences by booking classic artists, and new names that promise to take the blues into the 21st century. So the decision to book the Derek Trucks Band and have Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings follow was welcome for lovers of new music. Jones and her eight-member Dap-Kings were fuel for those who wanted to get close in front of the Renaissance Stage and move to her infectious and accessible blend of Motown, jazz, blues and R&B.
An arresting performer, Jones danced up a storm while delivering spot-on vocals for 70 minutes.
She ended her set with a powerful "100 Days, 100 Nights."
Closing the night was B.B. King. For anyone who has seen the legendary artist, his show has not changed much in recent years. But at 83, his guitar skills are intact and his baritone continues to thrill. And something always seems right with the world when King is on stage, playing his distinctive Lucille with his top-notch band playing around him.
His performance to finish things off was highlighted by "Let the Good Times Roll" and night-ending "The Thrill Is Gone."

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