July 21, 2015
Mayo Performing Arts Center Morristown, New Jersey
Touring the country in support of his recent album Fight for My Soul, Jonny Lang seems to have inexhaustible energy. Performing more than 60 shows last year, Lang hasn’t stopped and seems on track to exceed that number in 2016. One of those shows last year was at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, a beautifully restored old theatre in Morristown, New Jersey.
Lang walked out on the darkened stage with the members of his band and immediately launched into “Blew Up (The House)”. When the lights came up, Lang was already in high gear. Clearly, a warm-up isn’t part of a Jonny Lang performance. Although not written by him, the opening song is about tearing down everything and starting over; a good description of Lang’s life since he quit drinking and drug use. His other hits followed, including “A Quitter Never Wins”, “Turn Around” and an extended sing-along version of “Red Light”. These were followed his popular cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City”.
Watching Lang perform is an experience that transcends both his gritty vocals and his extraordinary guitar playing. He doesn’t run around the stage, do cartwheels, or jump off the amps. He strains, grimaces and sweats. Lang seemingly uses every muscle in his body to pump out each word he sings and every note he plays. This isn’t something he recently developed, either. His breakout album was over 19 years ago when he was only 16 years old.
Of course, many people know Lang as the blues guitarist who toured with Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Blues Traveler; as well as Jeff Beck, Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. Traditionalists may argue that his distorted sound is more like rock than blues, but Lang would say that’s what makes his sound unique. On stage, he alternated between his Fender Thinline Telecaster and his Signature Series Les Paul. He also played his Martin acoustic guitar.
In fact, the Martin acoustic was his choice of guitar for the start of the finale “Lie to Me”. Lang begins the song sitting alone on the stage, singing the first few verses in his soulful voice. As the song builds to a crescendo, he hands off the Martin for the Telecaster and joined by the rest of the band, explodes in a loud, raw conclusion to the song.
A Jonny Lang show is not to be missed. If he’s not playing in your town, he most likely will be there soon. When not touring with his band, he plays with the Hendrix Experience, an all-star celebration of the music of Jimi Hendrix.
Opening for Jonny Lang was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Led by pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph the band plays a combination of funk and soul music. Randolph is awesome to watch as he sings rocking back and forth on a steel guitar that sounds like no steel guitar you’ve ever heard. The band has opened for Eric Clapton and was featured in Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. The song “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with That” off the album Colorblind received a lot of airtime back in 2007.
Article and Photography By: Glenn Malmberg