Words & Pics By David Thrower
The Picturedrome in Holmfirth is one of live music’s greatest secrets. Nestled away amidst the rolling hills of the Pennines this inconspicuous venue regularly plays host to some stellar names in the industry and all set within the cosy, some would say ‘intimate’, surroundings of an old movie theatre that originally opened its doors one year before the advent of the Great War. So much so that when Kenny Wayne Shepherd was asked to perform at this year’s Ramblin Man Fair he chose to add one extra date during his short stop-over in the UK and as a result sold out the venue – and rightly so.
I had first seen tonight’s support act Laurence Jones and his band perform some years back, ironically supporting Kenny Wayne Shepherd only that time at The Sage in Gateshead, and found the young trio entertaining enough with front-man Jones delivering suitably bluesy guitar albeit a fair few steps off the pace set by the current leaders. Tonight, however, was a completely different kettle of fish as they showed that practice, and the art of honing your craft on the road, does indeed make perfect. Now performing as a quartet thanks to the inclusion of a keyboard player the band are a class act as they ran through a short set that culminated in a crowd sing along as the band cranked out ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ underlying exactly why Jones has been voted ‘Young Artist of the Year’ on three consecutive occasions at the British Blues Awards.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, on the other hand, is in a different league. Despite the age-old guitar player’s adage that they are always learning and never fully proficient, Shepherd has been setting the blues world alight with his incendiary playing since the release of his debut album ‘Ledbetter Heights’ in 1995. Twenty-two years later, and with new record ‘Lay It On Down’ proving yet again his musical skill and versatility, he ran through a marathon set that began with favoured, long-term opener ‘Never Lookin’ Back’ and culminated with a blistering take on the Hendrix classic ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’. Backed by a band that has more pedigree than a high-end dog show and partnered up front by the powerful vocal talents of Noah Hunt the headliners kept a packed house transfixed with powerhouse blues that barely stopped to take a breather – ‘The House is Rockin”, with Shepherd highlighting that he’s no light-weight when it comes to singing, was as raucous as SRV’s original, new track ‘Diamonds & Gold’ may have lacked the horn stabs of the album version but lost none of the bounce and ‘Nothing but the Night’, another newbie, also retained its 80s AOR tone but felt a bigger monster in the live environment. Chuck in some wonderful covers which included the Elmore James standard ‘Talk to Me Baby’, a track Shepherd covered on his first outing with The Rides, alongside the slow beauty of ‘Hard Lesson Learned’ and the wonderful ‘Blue on Black’ and it was an evening that those present, and no doubt the band, will remember for a long time.
Blues is big business these days and KWS is finding the European market ready to welcome him with open arms whenever he decides to cross the big pond – so much so that he will be back on these shores come October to do it all over again. I, for one, can’t wait.
Never Lookin Back
The House is Rockin’ (SRV cover)
Hard Lesson Learned
Baby Got Gone
Down for Love
Heat of the Sun
Talk to Me Baby (Elmore James cover)
Born with a Broken
Diamonds & Gold
Nothing but the Night
Woke Up this Morning (B. B. King cover)
You’ve Done Lost Your God Thing Now (B. B. King cover)
Blue on Black
I’m a King Bee (Slim Harpo cover)
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) (Hendrix cover)