Twenty-five years ago today–on September 1, 1989–Johnny Winter played the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. The chance to witness the underrated Texas guitar legend in the confines of one of VanCity’s finest concert venues (for the second time) was not one I was about to pass up.
Besides, at the time I was really grooving on his latest album, The Winter of ’88, especially tunes like “Rain”.
Here’s my review of the show, as it was published in the Sept. 8-15 issue of the Georgia Straight.
White, Hot & Blue is the title of an album Johnny Winter recorded with his brother Edgar in 1978, and it’s also a pretty good description of the guitarist in 1989. The albino picker is still whiter than white, his playing is definitely hot, and he hasn’t lost his super feel for the blues.
You can bet he never will.
Sporting a headless white Lazer guitar and a hat topped by two fang-flashing snake heads, the Fastest Thumb in the West was joined by a wicked eight-string bassist and a bang-on drummer in a set that had some great moments but was way too short (just over an hour).
The face-making bassist got things humming with a super-funky solo on “Love Her With a Feeling”, before Winter traded in his Lazer for a Firebird and some searing slide guitar on “Mojo Boogie”. His trademark version of “Johnny B. Goode” from the classic Johnny Winter And Live album with Rick Derringer, had the hearty types up front wriggling like electrified worms.
After the show there were a few beefs heard outside on the Granville Mall. “He didn’t do ‘Still Alive and Well’,” complained one fellow. He didn’t do a lot of stuff, but a few overlooked gems, like “Boney Moronie” and “Rock Me Baby”, Winter saved for the next night.
That was when George Thorogood was rumoured to show up after his Coliseum gig to jam, but it never happened. The story is that he had hotel rooms booked in Seattle for the night. But maybe he was intimidated by Winter’s awesome talent.
You can’t really blame him.