Monday, June 07, 2010
Jonny Lang rocks the House of Blues in Anaheim
This story was originally posted on the Orange County Register Web site's Soundcheck Blog on Sunday, June 6, 2010.
I’ve seen Jonny Lang a number of times since the mid-’90s, but it didn’t occur to me until he took the stage Saturday night (June 5, 2010) in front of a capacity crowd at House of Blues Anaheim that I had always caught him outdoors at blues festivals. Those appearances were certainly memorable, but having now had this experience, there’s little doubt in my mind that Lang is an artist best seen in an intimate club.
When he performs, whether singing or blazing away on lead guitar, he typically closes his eyes and uses the sound of the music and his own arsenal of talents to galvanize audiences. And at the Mouse House, Lang re-created much of the power featured on his latest Concord Records release (Live at the Ryman, from April), a concert recording boasting potent renditions of his best-known hits and his ever-burgeoning infusion of gospel, soul, R&B, even George Benson-styled jazz touches into his sound.
In “A Quitter Never Wins,” he used the song’s slow blues groove to sing some of his most expressive vocals of the night, trading high-reaching falsetto notes at the far end of his range with extensive lead guitar all in the service of a song focused on the reality of heartbreak.
Another highlight early on Saturday also came from that new live disc: “Bump in the Road” somehow blended Chicago blues with a bit of funk and soul, plus Lang’s rich vocals recalling Michael McDonald. A crowd-pleasing reworking of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” was another welcome addition to the set, allowing several members of his long-time band to stretch out musically as well.
Lang ended his main set with a reworked version of “Lie to Me,” with the 29-year-old Fargo native playing flamenco style for several minutes before his band returned to the stage to segue into the big-rocking version, enhanced by the star’s Joe Cocker-esque vocals and speedy guitar playing.
Opening for Lang was Wichita-based Moreland & Arbuckle, an Americana team mining a mix of Southern rock, Chicago and Delta blues, traditional country and related styles. Guitarist Aaron Moreland and harpist/vocalist Dustin Arbuckle, assisted by fantastic touring drummer Brad Horner, delivered an energetic 45-minute set of mostly original material from their current album Flood. The excellent “Hate to See You Go” was presented as a pedal-to-the-metal Chicago blues with Arbuckle blazing away on his mouth harp, while “Don’t Wake Me” showcased the outfit’s ability to bring fiery Austin-style Texas blues-rock into the fold.
Quick tip for the folks at Omega Events: Moreland & Arbuckle would tear it up on the Backporch Stage at next year’s Doheny Blues Festival.
Photo also by Robert Kinsler, for The Orange County Register.