Concert: Sonny Landreth
Venue: The Triple Door, Seattle, Washington
Date: December 1, 2004
Reviewed by Eric Steiner
There was a crisp buzz in the air along Seattle's Third Avenue as Benaroya Hall opened its doors for the night's Seattle Symphony performance. The mercury dipped down to 40, and there were no empty seats at Starbucks, Wolfgang Puck's Cafe or the block-long Benaroya Hall lobby. Commuters headed for home on Metro transit, and shoppers laden with colorful holiday bags crowded the streets. Across the street, Sonny Landreth took 230 people down to his native Lafayette, Louisiana with an amazing evening of slide guitar at Seattle's Triple Door nightclub.
The show had been sold out for weeks. Sonny Landreth, bassist David Ransom and drummer Kevin Blevins flew threw a 90-minute set of slide guitar wizardry that sampled Sonny Landreth's Cajun-influenced blues in his three-plus decades of bending notes in ways that only he can. I've never heard the nuances and rhythms that Sonny Landreth can coax out of a guitar, either acoustic or electric, take your pick, from any other slide guitar player. Sure, Sonny can play straightahead boogie and rock and roll just fine, thank you, but he also lets us know that the guitar can be quite a percussive instrument when he uses his hands as mallets or when he fans the fretboard with both his right and left hands mid-solo.
Sonny's live set mixed long instrumental jams with vocals, and a friend of mine turned to me as Sonny nursed notes I've never heard from a Fender Stratocaster before. He's a season ticket holder to the symphony at Benaroya Hall, and befitting a classical music enthusiast, has experienced some pretty world-class classical music, courtesy of Gerard Schwartz and Seattle Symphony. Tonight, I enjoyed turning Randy on to Sonny Landreth, and he was clearly impressed (as in wide-eyed, jawdropping).
"Eric," he said as his jaw dropped during the solos on "Gemini Blues" and "Hell at Home," "Sonny Landreth is every bit as much a virtuoso as those musicians playing in the Seattle Symphony tonight across the street. The way he approaches each song, each chord change, he's an incredible artist."
Looks like I've added another convert to the Landreth camp tonight.
The original version of "Blues Attack" was an acoustic saunter on his 1996 AVI reissue of a 1981 set of that same name, but tonight (and on his Live at Grant Street CD, more about that CD later), we're treated to a plugged-in powerhouse rocker of this humorous take on the blues that love can bring. Of the songs from his GRAMMY-nominated The Road We're On (2003, Sugar Hill) that he played tonight, I was humming his uptempo chord-driven attack on "Gone Pecan" well into the next morning.
Tonight's set list featured a traditional Cajun song, "Allons Danser," plus other songs captured on his new Live at Grant Street CD. Like the CD, he recreated note-for-note "Native Stepson" from his 1995 CD on Praxis/Zoo release, South of I-10, plus the previously unreleased haunting "Wind in Denver."
The encore was an 11-minute blistering "Congo Square," from his 1993 Epic CD, Down in Louisiana. I've also found a toned-down version of this song on a KFOG-FM compilation in their Live from the Archives series in the 1990's, and either way, acoustic or electric, Sonny Landreth's "Congo Square" evokes images of voodoo and all it's gris-gris accoutrements, dances and all, in a long-gone park that's now the site of the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans.
A Sneak Peek at the New Live CD: Live at Grant Street (Sugar Hill)
On January 25th, Sugar Hill Records will release Live at Grant Street from Sonny Landreth. Live at Grant Street is his first live CD, and it captures all of the magic Sonny works with his 1966 and 1989 Stratocasters. Live at Grant Street was recorded over two different performances with no overdubs, just like the show I saw at Seattle's Triple Door. Landreth played the Grant Street Dance hall on its opening night during Independence Day celebrations in 1980, when he joined both Zydeco royalty Clifton Chenier and the Red Beans and Rice Revue onstage, and for the last 14 years, Sonny has played an annual show for the Festival International in his home town of Lafayette at Grant Street. From start to finish, Live at Grant Street is high energy Louisiana blues at its best, and it's about time that Landreth has opened one of Louisiana's most fabled rooms for us to enjoy. It's all here: a great concert captured live, complete with a boisterous crowd (I've heard Grant Street is known for its beer), and crisp and clean production courtesy of RS Field and GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Tony Daigle. There're also three previously unreleased tracks that promise (and deliver) more Landreth slide alchemy, "Port of Calling," "Wind In Denver," and "Pedal To Metal." Turn up "Gone Pecan" or "Blues Attack" and you'll likely stay for the whole show.
CD Track List:
Native Stepson * Broken Hearted Road * Gone Pecan * Port of Calling * Blues Attack * Z. Rider * U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile * 8. Wind In Denver * All About You * Pedal To Metal * Congo Square
© 2005 - Eric Steiner