Live: Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ The Empire.

It’s a balmy, unseasonably warm night in west London. Shirtsleeves abound on Shepherds Bush Green but at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire across the street, the temperature outside won’t match that in the auditorium.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band is in town and headlining a night of potent blues-rock. In his past, Shepherd has been accused of being too derivative, a Stevie Ray Vaughan clone running on auto. This strikes me as a little unfair. The blues scale contains six notes only (hexatonic) and no matter how you string them together, a degree of cross-pollination is surely inevitable. The Shepherds Bush Empire gig on April 15th was my first opportunity to see Kenny Wayne’s style at close hand and one I was much looking forward to.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

But before I get that chance, I’m served up another prodigious talent in the form of Ben Poole. Poole, whose music resides in the ‘melodic, soulful’ part of the blues-rock Venn diagram, is a seriously good guitar player. He is flanked by some other venerable musicians from the blues fold too. Steve Watts sits behind the Hammond organ, a position from which he directs keyboard traffic in Jo Harman & Company. Bassist Mat Beable and Drummer Craig Bacon have both performed with ace guitar touting siblings Alan and Stevie Nimmo. This is a band with pedigree and they collectively blast a tight, controlled 45-minute set of contemporary and classic blues to a very appreciative audience.

600

Kenny Wayne Shepherd has a famed love of American automotive muscle. His main Fender Strat guitar sports a black with white stripe colour scheme that is a nod to his primary mode of transport – a custom Dodge Challenger SRT-8. It’s the sort of car the Green Party don’t approve of. It’s also a good metaphor for his music; fast, loud, powerful.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed

When The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band take to the stage they drop the clutch on a quick-fire collection of tunes, allowing scant time for anyone in the theatre to draw breath. Shepherd, sporting a wayward, floppy blond crop of the Boris Johnson variety, truly is a showman. He struts to and fro ensuring that the audience on both sides of the theatre gets a chance to see him let rip when he unleashes one of those incendiary solos. This is lucky for the photographic corps at the front – 18 of us are wedged into the tiny strip of the photo pit.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Shepherd’s eponymous band is also racked with talent. Noah Hunt has helped front the group for well over a decade and he fills a knowing place. Whilst Kenny Wayne is on one side of the stage wringing the neck of his guitar, Noah is on the other stoking the crowd. Visually, there’s something of the Dave Grohl about him, although a smooth vocal delivery sounds fuelled more by Strepsils than by angst. Austin pianist and Hammond player Riley Osborn has played with Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett amongst others and has some brilliant moments tonight. His piano solo in Elmore James’ Talk To Me Baby stands out as a particular highlight. The rhythm section of Scott Nelson (bass) and Chris Layton (drums) keep everything relentlessly on track. Layton was Double Trouble’s drummer and Shepherd tells us that the following morning he’ll be flying back to the US to be inducted to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Elmore James isn’t the only cover on offer tonight. Shepherd’s latest record, Goin’ Home is a tribute to the musicians that have helped shape his journey and we get a number of tracks off it from artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Guitar Watson and BB King. We get some staple KWS highlights too. Déja Voodoo and Born With A Broken Heart, the first two tracks from the 1995 debut Ledbetter Heights, are delivered with a neat segue and receive a big crowd response.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

The set closes out with Shotgun Blues featuring some really nice playing at the beginning that was marred by too much yakking at the bar. I’ve never understood why some people pony up their cash for live music only to then feel the need to shout through it – they might as well be at the football. I resolve that next time I’m standing nearer the front as I wait for the encore.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

When the band returns, they play one of the best curtain calls I’ve ever seen. First up, KWS staple, Blue On Black. Slim Harpo’s I’m A King Bee is next, featuring tambourine bashing by Noah Hunt so potent I’m concerned he might require a trip to A&E. I’m thinking it’s about time for Voodoo Chile when they hit us with a great, heavy, wah-wah punishing version of Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well. There is community singing and I’m sure Peter Green would approve. Finally, we do get the cover of Voodoo Chile we all craved and it’s just brilliant. Shepherd pulls all the guitar playing stunts there are, bar lighter fluid and playing with your teeth. We get arm in the air (during the long sustain notes, he was in grave danger of hailing a cab), playing behind his back, machine gunning the crowd etc… etc…

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire London on 15 April 2015 (Simon Reed)

Hunt departed the stage for the final guitar pyros in Voodoo Chile but reunited with the band for a final linking of arms and bow before the lights went down for good. On the way out I look around and it’s clear that people have been genuinely blown away by the performance. Series four of The Voice has just limped over the finishing line on BBC1. Whilst that stuff continues to pervade our TV screens on Saturday evenings, it’s reassuring to know that nights like this still happen. Long may it continue.

[photoshelter-gallery g_id=”G0000B3.GPvGPJMc” g_name=”Kenny-Wayne-Shepherd” f_show_caption=”t” f_show_slidenum=”t” img_title=”casc” pho_credit=”iptc” f_link=”t” f_enable_embed_btn=”t” f_send_to_friend_btn=”t” f_fullscreen=”t” f_show_watermark=”t” f_htmllinks=”t” f_mtrx=”t” fsvis=”f” width=”600″ height=”450″ f_constrain=”t” bgcolor=”#ffffff” bgtrans=”t” btype=”new” bcolor=”#CCCCCC” crop=”f” twoup=”t” trans=”flip” tbs=”4000″ f_ap=”t” linkdest=”c” f_topbar=”f” f_bbar=”f” f_bbarbig=”” f_smooth=”f” f_up=”f” target=”_self” ]
Photography & Review by Simon Reed.
Ben Poole / Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 15/04/15
Simon has his own great website here:http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk

The full set here too: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Kenny-Wayne-Shepherd/G0000B3.GPvGPJMc

Grindhouse Poster 1 scaled

Trixi’s Grindhouse : burlesque and cabaret raising funds against cancer!

The cream of London’s burlesque scene will gather on June 8th at Signature Brew Haggerston to kick cancer by raising...
Kingfishr (Press)

Kingfishr Bask In Their Afterglow

Fresh from the news that they'll be heading down to Worth Farm in June to play Glastonbury Festival's Avalon Stage...
One Step Closer (Spencer Chamberlain)

Hardcore Outfit One Step Closer Drop Orange Leaf

One Step Closer are gearing up for their highly anticipated new full-length, All You Embrace, and in the build-up to...
Glasto 2024 Avalon expanded scaled

Glastonbury Festival’s Field Of Avalon Announces 2024 Line-Up

The full stage announcements are coming in thick and fast as the Glastonbury Festival 2024 ticket resales approach...
The Hives @ Hammersmith Apollo, London (Pauline Di Silvestro)

The Hives Are As Ferocious As Ever At The Hammersmith Apollo

It’s the first real day of spring in London, and crowds seem to flock in thousands to Hammersmith station, sharply...
Glasto 2024 Acoustic

Glastonbury Festival Announces Full Acoustic Stage Line-Up For 2024

Following the first line-up announcement for Glastonbury Festival 2024 dropping less than one month back and...
Eloise Viola (Press)

Eloise Viola Explores Debut Album Glasshouse With Latest Single Lifetime

Eloise Viola has released her brand new single Lifetime, the latest song to be taken from her forthcoming debut...
OhGunquitLex 32 scaled

Oh! Gunquit Searing Garage Rock Rampage At The Lexington

Oh! Gunquit played a sold out show at The Lexington, a full on blast of sleazy garage rock.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share Thing