Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 26, 2009

Johnny Winter

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington
January 25, 2009
Eric Sutter

The audience of approximately 400 were eyewitness to the heat wave of Texas blues legend Johnny Winter, who chased away the chill on this cold mid-winter night in the Berkshires. Winter has been living the blues since he first broke through in the early 70s. The night began with a hard rockin' electric guitar blues instrumental solo performed by Paul Nelson, from the Johnny Winter Band. The band was pumped up when Winter took the stage with the high powered crunch of "Hideaway." Dressed in blue jeans, black shirt and his trademark black cowboy hat, and lone star tatooed arms, he sounded the way he looked... like a road weary, raspy voiced blues veteran of countless bars, roadhouses and concert halls. "Sugar Coated Love" and "Boogie Real Low" exemplified his blues shuffle rhythms and use of boogie guitar styles. He is one of the true building bridges of blues and rock interpreters who have linked the British blues of the 60s to the Southern rock of the 70s.

He worked the crowd to a frenzy with "Blackjack" and growled the Texas gutbucket blues with "Lone Wolf," which brought forth howls from the audience. His long slender fingers glided over the strings of his guitar with the grace of ageless beauty. He let it rip with a ferocious blues force on "Red House." The backwood yowl of "Johnny Guitar" caught the cheers and handclaps from the audience. The super raw cover of "It's All Over Now" sounded Stonesy, but with more Texas big beat and swagger courtesy of the rhythm section of Scott Spray's swampy bass lines and drummer Vito Liuzzi's bam. Winter has paid his dues and then some, and it showed as he squeezed passion from every smokin' hot slide guitar lick on his low down "Mojo Boogie" interspersed with Spray's tirade of funky bass lines. The encore, "Highway 61," featured traded electric guitar riffs between Nelson and Winter with solos galore.

A note about Mahaiwe. The theatre opened in 1905 for vaudeville shows, then became a movie house in the late 20s, and reopened in 2004 for a new century of entertainment.