Z Rider, South of I-10, Hell @ Home, Promise Land, Wind in Denver, Storm of Worry, Milky Way, Blue Tarp Blues, World Away, Uberesso, Key to the Highway, Bayou Teche, Groovy Goddess, All About You, Zydecoldsmobile, Pedal to Metal... oh, how I wish every one of you could have been there! Cincinnati was more than a show, it was a concert truly. And Sonny hit every note every time with style, grace and perfection! An OUTSTANDING display of talent! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
The venue? A high school auditorium. Yeah, like the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. St. Xavier High School is one of the premier private schools in the country, with facilities to match their academic reputation. We’re talking a 110 acre campus. We’re talking natatorium, not swimming pool. They even have a mock trial room designed to replicate an actual courtroom. Their Performance Center is a lovely 500-seat theatre with sound stage, main floor and balcony... and that’s where Sonny worked his magic Saturday night.
The crowd? A little different than the usual dive-bar, street festival bunch, if you’re into categorizing Sonny’s fans and followers. Many in this group were season ticket holders for the offerings from the Greater Cincinnati Performing Arts Society. Yep, real straight up patrons of the arts, folks. Willing to give this Sonny Landreth a try, although they’d never actually heard of him.
Then there was the rest of us riffraff. David and Sharon Martin were set up in a great location in the lobby selling the heck out of CD’s and merchandise. Taylor and I had driven two and a half hours (well, three with interstate construction) and weren’t ready to sit again quite yet so we hung around the fringes talking. We saw several of the usual suspects, people we recognized from other shows – complete with ponytails, t-shirts, and grey hair.
There weren’t assigned seats as such, but not a bad seat in the house. Taylor chose a primo location Sonny-side where he could stretch out his long legs, and he saved the next chair for me. But I simply couldn’t sit! I spent most of the next 90 minutes standing at the back and then at the side, moving every step of the way with Sonny, mouthing the words, and trying to keep from blocking anybody’s view.
I think I must have scared guitar tech Jimi Bedsole. We were both standing in back, next to the sound engineer, where Jimi was checking on presentation and I was jiggling around in what might loosely be called dancing but in reality is some kind of hysterical body reaction to fantastic guitars and drums. So, at one point I determined I was in the way and made a quick decision to move. (After a couple ear-blistering numbers, a few patrons came to the conclusion that this wasn’t really what they’d signed up for and all of a sudden they recalled a previous appointment and were afraid they had to leave, so sorry.) Anyhow, it was about then that I walked to the side of the theatre where there also happens to be a ramp to the stage. I stopped at the edge, of course, and Jimi just about plowed into me! I honestly think he was getting ready to tackle me, suspecting I might be making a crazed dash to throw myself at Sonny. From what I’ve been reading recently, another of Jimi’s duties has become clearing the stage of exuberant females. I’m happy to report that he was ready to do that job again had the need arisen!
So, now, about the music. It was simply... wonderful. I don’t know how else to put it. The sound system was spectacular. Dave was the true support that he usually is. This was the first time I’d seen Brian. He drums with finesse and stamina and a real feel for where Sonny’s going.
And Sonny was – o.k., I’ve been searching for a new superlative that I haven’t used yet and can’t find it – just hear me now, this was the finest I’ve ever heard him play in the nine shows we’ve been to over a two year period. It seems like he’s always tweaking his go-to songs and challenging himself to find simply one more unusual run or riff, and wow, he was at it that evening. I don’t think he changes words (or maybe he does?), but his guitar was truly singing new and beautiful sounds in Cincinnati. We heard the new song Groovy Goddess, we heard the swamps, we heard heartbreak and we heard hope.
And for those purists who feel that the music from his CD “From the Reach” is somehow compromised when presented live without the addition of collaborators, you’re wrong! As much as I’m crazy about the Erics and Mark Knopfler and would loved to have seen them, we didn’t miss them. Sonny played his part and theirs and more on Blue Tarp, Storm, and Milky Way.
It was over too soon. I was floating. I’ve always said I could die happy if I ever heard World Away live. Well, I heard it at the blues festival in Urbana this spring and hardly recognized it because the boys were so very tired and “off” that evening. This time, however, whew, it was better and more poignant than any youtube or studio version ever. And now I have to rescind my vow. I can die happy only if I hear World Away and Cherry Ball Blues in the same concert. Hasn’t happened for me yet!
Sonny did a huge meet’n’greet. No booze (just ask me if I missed having my feet stepped on by some wavering meatball who’s three sheets to the wind) meant everybody had money left to spend on CD’s and merchandise and they wanted everything signed. There was a good share of the crowd, also, who simply wanted to thank Sonny and spend a minute telling him how much they enjoyed the show. I overheard one gal say she had waited patiently for 15 years to see him in person. Warmed his heart, I think, to see new fans and old friends.
Looks as if this will be our last show for the year. Going out on a real high!
Great review! You really do have a way about you when it comes to telling your adventures, I wish I was so creative with words. I'm not on here much anymore but had to hop over when I got this in my inbox to say a quick hello. Thank you for sharing this. I went to see Sonny at the Orange Blossom Junction in Exter recently and hope to have photos to share if I can ever get the time to post them. I have photos from a few others to get up on my photo page as well but life.... well... it would take me days to explain... but lets just say it's been crazy.... busy... and a little rough lately... no... strike that... a LOT rough lately. Hang in there with me though everyone... I'll get them (and the others) up as soon as I can... until then, I am still out here on the edge of the world somewhere :o)
ahimsa, and take care everyone
YOU hang in there too, girl!! We are all pulling for you. And we'll all see each other in person again some year at Jazzfest.