Jonny Lang | 06.14.07

langHere is an artist who makes Mom smile warmly and say, "Look honey, now we have something in common. I already bought your ticket."





w/John McLaughlin
The Pageant, St. Louis

Most music genres can earn the "pop" prefix. As Jonny Lang has earned a reputation of "pop blues," I entered The Pageant without any preconceptions or expectations. Journalistic objectivity occurred without much effort. John McLaughlin opened with a Ben Folds Five-grade of alternative, flaunting rapid keyboard skills complete with tracers (hallucinogens not included). Instrument stands were the only restraint for a serious case of happy feet. He created powerful stage supremacy, maintaining a constant transfer of passion between percussion and voice.

A story about an exceptional blind date (with a little sap) was the prelude to "It's Already in My Mind." "She just happened to be an amazing girl," said McLaughlin. According to the tale, he didn't pursue, immediately gave up, and immortalized her through a song. I was entertained, but I can't say I was moved. His introduction to "Beautiful Disaster" lacked the YM back story and made me fear a 311 cover. Fortunately, it was a ballad ushered in by soft turquoise lighting.

The sweeter side of modern rock switched off as Jonny Lang took the stage with a swagger and "Bump in the Road." He repeated, over-annunciated, and wagged a finger while singing, "The choices you make might be mistakes/ but it's never too late to turn around." While reflecting on this bit of fatherly advice, I was forced to admit that Lang crosses generations with ease. Here is an artist who makes Mom smile warmly and say, "Look honey, now we have something in common. I already bought your ticket." It's not a new phenomenon. Harry Connick, Jr. attracted young preppies and parents without a previous jazz interest. All around me at The Pageant was Lang's crowd: slightly corny and courteous bourgeois boogiers (and some traditional blues fans).

Fortunately, parental vibes died down during "Turnaround." The headliner delivered a Prince, Purple Rain-era yelp that accompanied Reeve Carney's lead guitar. Adding different genre slices definitely kept his sound from going stale and nurtured attention spans of all strengths. Even though pop proved a key ingredient, "Give Me up Again" really pulled me in. Lang sounded slightly repressed, firm, commanding and frustrated while singing, "I let you get back under my skin/ I let you break me down again."

"A Quitter Never Wins" dethroned pop blues as it crowned Hendrix guitar-solo nostalgia. Manically prodigal strumming earned Lang his first of several standing ovations. "Red Light" staged a coup on rock, granting power to traditional blues.

As the show neared its end, a sweaty Lang gave band members Jimmy Anton (bass), Joey Richey (background vocals), Barry Alexander (drums), Reeve Carney (lead guitar), and Tommy Barbarella (keyboard) individual showcase time. Audience members gave an obsessive standing ovation – love growing like weeds. The blues crew was visibly exhausted, but fans wouldn't leave or stop clapping. They remained unsatisfied, even after the additional performance. Lang declined a second encore; however, his energy, gratitude and enthusiasm indicated that he considers St. Louis to be much more than a tour truck stop. | Lauren Beckerle

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