@Newcastle Boilershop, July 17 2019
Whilst the Boilershop ‘did’ get served a red hot helping of guitar from Kenny Wayne Shepherd, an evening that should have been Blue on Black turned out a little….beige.
I’ve followed KWS on his journeys from Ledbetter Heights onwards and it’s always a highlight when a new album drops or he rolls into town. 2014’s Sage Gateshead show was my concert of the year and the recently released The Traveler is undoubtedly a career highlight that followed an equally brilliant Lay It On Down. In fact, diving into Kenny’s back catalogue is a regular escape due to the depth and diversity of songs over the years.
And that’s where last night’s show fell by the wayside.
Weighing in at a lacklustre one hour and 26 minutes, the setlist contained 14 songs (bemusingly, four of them covers), and a middle section that – quite frankly – lost the crowd who were already reeling over the merch prices (£35 for signed vinyl!).
It all started out so well. Four songs from The Traveller brought the old engine workshop to a frenzy (side note: this was my first visit to this venue and it’s the hidden gem in the North East music scene with beautiful sound and aesthetics). Woman Like You, Long Time Running and I Want You sounded glorious and, as much as I hate the song, Mr Soul hit the spot.
Talk To Me Baby was a welcome addition from The Rides side project, and Diamonds And Gold was definitely the latter. But then it all went wrong.
Heat Of The Sun turned from five minutes on record into a 12-minute behemoth and that would have been fine. KWS was on explosive form, everybody loves an extended jam, plus it sounded great. All good.
But then Down For Love went the same way.
And then Shame Shame Shame…went the same way.
Three on the bounce was just too much and the crowd switched off and never recovered. Game over.
Joe Walsh classic Turn To Stone closed the set and the crowd looked confused. Was that it already? Couldn’t be, surely?
But it was.
Blue On Black got the party started again, as much as an acoustic ballad can, but then two covers – King Bee and Voodoo Chile finished it up.
Gutted really. And let me explain why.
You’re better than that Kenny and I need you to believe that you are.
I need you to believe in your songwriting ability and be better at putting together setlists. I need you to believe you are better than finishing on a lacklustre version of Voodoo Chile.
I need you to commit to the half step that you’ve taken on this album and really push the set on this tour into the world of rock. The Traveler is superb and you owe it to yourself to take it properly on the road.
If you don’t, I’m concerned about that Rambling Man set. I’m worried people will leave the stage to see a different band and they really need to hear you deliver those songs first hand.
Drop two of those extended jams, drop those last two covers and have some FUN with your back catalogue.
Add We All Alright and Gravity to the set instead of Mr Soul and Turn To Stone.
Finish the main set on Blue And Black.
Encores – I’ve read the interviews. You’re proud of I Want You and so you should be. It’s the best song you’ve recorded in 20 years. So play it last.
Stick something like Come On Over before it and IMAGINE how much the arse end of that set will rock a venue to its core.
Play something like True Lies, Where Was I?, Nothing To Do With Love, Crying Shame or Nothing But The Night in the middle section and just watch that crowd spark to life.
Last night the venue was devoid of chemistry – both on stage and off – and it doesn’t have to be that way. Believe in yourself by tweaking that setlist and that beige goes back to blue.
Words and pictures by John Burrows