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Gig review of Kenny Wayne Shepherd

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Reviewed on 23rd April 2015.


Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Live at Holmfirth Picturedrome on Saturday, 11th April 2015

It constantly amazes me that a small town like Holmfirth, with a population comparable to that of a holiday park, can manage to pull in some huge names in the music business. However, when you take a look at the setting, traditional stone buildings nestled in the Pennine hills with a venue celebrating its one hundred and second birthday this year, it's easy to see what draws them deep into the West Yorkshire countryside.

Tonight it was the turn of the five times Grammy nominated Kenny Wayne Shepherd (a name strangely coincidental given the rural location) and his band to grace the stage at the historic and sold out Picturedrome. Considering the band only toured the UK in October of last year it certainly appears they have a fondness for the UK and its guitar loving public.
Support act The Ben Poole Band took the stage first and played a strong set that laid the foundations nicely for the evening. Ben may not yet possess the full 'set the World on fire' technique but can certainly knock out a great tune, even incorporating a 'Sloe Gin'-style solo during one track which built to a wonderful crescendo. The capacity crowd made sure the band knew how much they appreciated every note and more than a handful no doubt ventured towards his merchandise stand at the back of the room.

In the world of blues rock music, over-shadowed by the colossus that is 'The Bonamassa' and his unerring ability to price the common man out of his concerts, it's great to see a genuine down to earth guitar virtuoso such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd bring his band across the water - and still only charge 15 for a t-shirt.

Opening with 'Never Lookin' Back' from his 2011 album 'How I Go' Shepherd, alongside exceptional vocalist Noah Hunt, ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan drummer Chris Layton, keyboardist Riley Osbourn (notably absent during the last tour) and replacement bass player Scott Nelson, performed faultlessly for ninety minutes to a rapt audience mesmerised by his ability to draw every emotion from his guitar.

Touring ahead of the upcoming twenty year anniversary of his first release Shepherd showcased his signature style of a raucous blend of blues and rock, adding numbers by Hendrix ('Voodoo Chile'), B.B. King ('Woke Up this Morning', 'You've Done Lost You're Good Thing Now'), Bob Dylan ('Everything is Broken') and SRV ('House is Rockin'') into the mix alongside songs from the majority of his studio albums. Songs taken from 'The Rides' side-project were included which gave him a chance to prove that he's not too shabby as a vocalist, belting out a great rendition of The Stooges' 'Search and Destroy'. Not that there was anything to prove here tonight as the band looked relaxed and happy to be performing to a packed house.

The only disappointment, and it could well have been down to my proximity to the speaker cabinets, was that the sound quality dropped as the levels increased during the encore but this is just nit-picking over what was a tremendous display of a band showing true mastery of their craft.
It is often joked that blues/rock fans are obsessed by the gear on stage and could easily be passed off as pure hyperbole but when one audience member taps you on the shoulder, passes you their 'phone, and asks you to take a snap of Shepherd's pedal board you know the statement stands up to close scrutiny. It was not just a night for 'musos' and 'gearheads' though as Shepherd's musical style is free from the self-indulgence which can afflict certain guitarists - I'm looking at you again Bonamassa. All present tonight enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining performance whether existing fans or new to the, erm, fold.



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