Kenny Wayne Shepherd tonight shows The Picturedrome his qualifications for being one of the finest bluesmen of our time, showcasing his Trouble Is… album and some well-chosen cuts from other releases.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
The Picturedrome, Holmfirth – 21 April 2023
Review and Photography: John Hayhurst (aka SNAPAGIG)
Holmfirth is a small town nestled in God’s Own Country, Yorkshire and made famous for TV’s Last Of The Summer Wine sitcom. Looking around the room, there are a few that clearly fit that same demographic tonight, The Blues is still an old man’s game, it seems.
There is no support tonight. The plan is to play the album in full, then another set. The Kenny Wayne Shepherd band walk on stage at 8:20 pm and do the best part of two hours.
Kicking off, we have the instrumental title track Trouble Is… named as a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble, some of whom played on the original album back in 1997. There are some clear influences to SRV as his playing transcends from some choppy riffs to sweet scorching solos. Every note can be heard tonight at The Picturedrome, the sound system sometimes defies belief in this old venue.
Noah Hunt is the KWS band vocalist. Whilst Kenny will add the odd chorus, he leaves the heavy lifting to Noah and what velvety smooth vocal cords this guy has. Crossing somewhere between Darius Rucker and Paul Rodgers, his deep gravelly vocals work perfectly with every song. Somehow, Somewhere, Someway starts his reign at the mic, and he isn’t shy of adding a few rhythm guitar chords too.
Hard to believe that KWS doesn’t read music, but his knowledge of the blues and his self-taught playing by ‘Feel’ puts him higher, in my estimation, than a trad guitarist.
He starts throwing riff and solo, one after the other, bending the notes to give extra depth and expression. Occasionally cartwheeling his arms in Pete Townsend fashion but then picking out a beautifully clearly noted solo, how he manages to pick out the right strings when he is hitting them so hard amazes everyone. We stand ‘jaws open’ time after time, watching this maestro’s precision.
Taking a brief time out to explain the reason for the tour and, in particular, I Found Love, which has become the wedding song for many fans, one couple were here tonight and had it dedicated to them. He also said that the first section of the show will finish with Slow Ride. “So when you hear that, just pretend that we’ve gone off and came back on for the encore.”
There was no space backstage at this small venue to actually walk off anywhere.
Not frightened to cover the greats, he dusts off a sublime version of Jimi Hendrix’s I Don’t Live Today, complete with kneeling down near the amps and pulling off yet another incredible solo. We are at the business end of the album now, with the biggest hit, Blue On Black, and then Slow Ride, bringing the Trouble Is… element to a close with some spirited singing from this slightly ancient crowd for both of those two numbers.
Special dedications have to be made for his band, in particular the incredible keys of Joe Krown. He may look like an office worker on his day off, but he puts his heart and soul into every moment, especially when he is allowed to expand tracks with some ivory noodling Hammond style.
Then Kevin McCormick on bass gets an opportunity to run a synthesised effect bass solo during the second set, which was almost as mindblowing as the guitar solos from KWS. This was a show of great moments, extending songs way past their bedtime but with precision and warmth, a beautiful thing to witness.
Most impressive in the second set was Heat Of The Sun, building slowly and softly and ending with a crescendo of guitar wizardry that burst out from KWS, then trading off between Krown’s keyboards and Mccormick’s bobbing bassline. This was another level of brilliance and, rightly so, a major part of the encore.
They follow that with a choice BB King cover You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now as a finale. Noah was still in fine hearty vocals, and KWS was giving whatever he had left in the tank out for this audience that were lapping it up time and time again. He thanked everyone for coming and said he would be back again soon with a new album and a new tour, probably next year.
This reviewer will be one of the first in line for that, and here’s to the next 25 years of Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Setlist:
Somehow Somewhere Someway
Everything Is Broken
Chase the Rainbow
I Found Love (When I Found You)
Nothing To Do With Love
I Don’t Live Today
Blue on Black
Woman Like You
I Want You
Diamonds & Gold
Heat Of The Sun
You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now