Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Straight To You: Live – November 27th16th October 2020
The calls have been coming for a long time explains Shepherd. “People have been asking us to do a live DVD forever, for decades,” he explains. “We’ve been working so much focussing on studio recordings. But I’ve been hearing the call from the fans for many years now,” and, as live music has come to a standstill, the band wanted to give the fans a taste once again of that experience and this blistering set shows them in full force.
The first song to be released from the DVD is ‘Woman Like You’ and talking about it Shepherd says, “Woman Like You I think is the perfect opening song for the show, just like I thought it was the perfect opening song for the record. I think you just come out swinging, it sets the mood for the entire show. It’s like, we’re there to rock and we mean business. The whole intention of this set list is that we come out with a lot of energy, get the crowd pumped up. We want get them energised right off the bat.”
Their only other live output, the ’Live! In Chicago’ album was released a decade ago and got itself a Grammy nomination along the way, but this time around for 2020, you get to watch the band in its full glory as well as listen. In the last 10 years the multi-platinum selling Shepherd has gone from strength to strength, winning countless awards, releasing four studio albums and touring the world over several times – from Brazil to Europe, India to Canada and US to Australia and beyond.
‘The Traveler’ was released in May last year, giving the band their 8th US Billboard Blues #1 album, when they hit the road. The ‘Traveler World Tour’ was interrupted when the Covid-19 pandemic broke, and the world came to a standstill. This show took place at the famous Leverkusen Jazzstage for the iconic German TV show, Rockpalast on 25th November 2019.
The seven-piece band took the stage and immediately launched into their most-recent hit-single ‘Woman Like You,’ with the honey-soaked powerhouse voice of Noah Hunt blasting “I ain’t looking for a one time girl” backed by the fiery fretwork of Shepherd. It’s the first of four songs taken from the latest studio album, “‘Woman Like You’ is the perfect opening song for the show,“ Shepherd says. “You come out swinging, it sets the mood for the entire show. It’s like, we’re there to rock, and we mean business.”
“The whole intention of this set-list is that we come out with a lot of energy, get the crowd pumped up. We want to get them energised right off the bat.” The soul-drenched blues of ‘Long Time Running,’ has Chris Layton’s drums firing through the building horn section as Hunt and Shepherd lock-in on duel vocals, whilst blue and yellow lights spray the stage, catapulting you right to the front row of the audience.
He continues; “We were really fired up. We had expanded the band and brought in the horn section, it was their first time over to Europe with us. So we were glad to have the full ensemble there. It’s always exciting when we’re incorporating a new album into the live performance. Remembering the show, there were several stand out moments. The song off the new record ‘I Want You’, is a really extended version, and every soloist gets an opportunity to really shine, and everybody brought it 150%.”
The band never let up, and it’s in a live environment that Shepherd, truly let’s rip. The five-time Grammy nominated guitarist has developed a formidable back catalogue that only someone with road-worn life experience can do and this set is besieged with classics. Shepherd prowls the stage on ‘Diamonds and Gold,’ ‘Talk To Me Baby’ – an Elmore James cover – explodes into honkey-tonk revelry and ‘The Heat of The Sun’ is a stunning 11-minute epic. “On that the band is really focussed, everybody is listening to one another, everybody’s working collectively on the dynamics of the song, bringing it down, building it back up, trying to transcend what’s actually happening on stage and take the music to the next level.”
They continue to shift up with gears with songs that include a 9 minute working of ‘Shame Shame Shame,’ from his 1995 debut. “The reason why the song goes on the way that it does is because everybody is feeling it and there’s a lot of special moments that I’m proud of. Giving the keyboard and horn guys their moments to shine, and standing back and letting those guys do what they do best, made me feel just as proud as any solo that I played that night,” he enthuses.
While Kenny has had six #1 rock tracks and a slew of top ten songs, no show would be complete without the mega-hit ‘Blue on Black’ – taken from the bands second album, it spent an incredible 42 weeks on the US Billboard Rock Charts on its release, winning the Rock Track of the Year which now has over 25m streams and became a 2019 smash when Shepherd collaborated with some friends. “That’s the song that we cannot, not walk out onto the stage and play,” says the Louisiana guitarist. “I’ve been playing that song for more than 20 years, and I still enjoy playing it. As a songwriter it’s the song that you hope you can write. It’s a timeless song that doesn’t really seem to age. A year ago a new version of it came out with the Five Finger Death Punch guys, Brian May, myself and Brantley Gilbert. In the states it went to #1 on the rock charts again. As a songwriter to have a #1 hit twice with the same song is really rare, and certainly something to be proud of.” That version of the song has gone onto have upward of over 80m streams so far.
Talking about not being able to play live during the Covid19 pandemic he says; “I miss it. Live concert performances are the essence of what we do best. So, not having that in our life is yeah, this has been an eye-opening experience I think for all musicians. It’s been a personal loss for every performer out there who does what we do. A lot of our lives have been spent pouring our heart and soul into that.”
The release of ‘Straight To You: Live’ comes during a time when there is no live music and the world looks a very different place to 12 months previously, and as the seven-piece Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band bow out on a phenomenal finale of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return),’ they wave goodbye to the cheering Leverkusen crowd and it reignites that love of live music and the hope that is to come.
1. Woman Like You (Live)
*2. Mr. Soul (Live)
3. Long Time Running (Live)
4. I Want You (Live)
5. Diamonds & Gold (Live)
6. Talk To Me Baby (Live)
7. Heat Of The Sun (Live)
8. Down For Love (Live)
9. Shame, Shame, Shame (Live)
10. Turn To Stone (Live)
11. Blue On Black (Live)
12. I’m A King Bee (Live)
13. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (Live)