Monday, June 23, 2014

Kenny Wayne Shepherd & Robert Randolph concert review

Robert Randolph, Andrew Prince
Last night I went to see Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Robert Randolph and the Family Band at the Mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. These guys have been touring together for the last couple of months. Shepherd is the headliner but I really wanted to see Randolph and if he returns as a headliner, I will go see him again because his show was too short. Randolph learned to play steel guitar in his church in Newark, NJ. Though the steel guitar is mainly known in country music, it's called Sacred Steel in black churches. So gospel music is Randolph's jumping point. After several years on Warner Bros., Randolph signed with Blue Note and the CD Lickety Split was released last year. His regular band is cousins Danyel Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums plus Brett Haas on guitar. They are a high energy band even when they are performing Amazing Grace. They also have this shtick at the end of the show where the guys swap instruments. They put on a great show. A funny thing happened during the show. Randolph wanted someone from the audience to come on stage to play guitar. 17 year old Andrew Prince from Milton. ON volunteered. He turned out to be pretty good though Prince told Toronto Star reporter Trish Crawford that he was a little embarrassed that he didn't know Randolph's songs. But he said the guys were great and helped him sound decent. It was pretty cool to see the kid on stage. Kenny Wayne Shepherd is classified as blues though I would describe him as bluesish rock heavily influenced by the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. Shepherd was 18 years old when he had significant chart success in the mid-90s on Giant Records. Things went south for him when Giant was folded into Reprise. But Shepherd is a very good guitarist who still has a loyal fanbase. But he's not a kid anymore and I wonder if he would be better off as a guitarist in a band as opposed to the star of the band. I guess it's too late for that. Last month Shepherd released his debut CD on Concord Records Goin' Home. The band on that CD is his touring band led by long time singer Noah Hunt. Hunt's vocal style reminds me of Paul Rodgers of Bad Company. Shepherd sings but isn't very good. The pianist is veteran sideman Riley Osbourne. He's been around since the 70s. The bassist is Tony Franklin from the 80s group The Firm and the drummer is former Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble member Chris Layton. I think they gave a very good performance but I think their music is run of the mill blues rock. I don't mind that but there are lot of similar bands out there. Shepherd does nothing to distinguish himself from the competition. Is he going through the motions riding on 20 year old success? Could be but there was nothing special about Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Here's an idea. I know they're buddies and have toured together. How about Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Trombone Shorty for next year?

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