Jonny Lang at The Borderline
Referring to a guitarist as a veteran when they’re only 32 may seem premature, since after all, that’s not even half the age of – the invincible and ever-touring – Keith Richards, but it’s a term that’s hard to avoid when considering Jonny Lang. The all-American blues singer-songwriter whose talents with an axe have taken him from a 12-year old in Fargo, North Dakota to London’s Borderline, albeit via a few major label releases, a Grammy Award, and tours with the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Sting.
It’s easy to forget just how intimate The Borderline is, with no room for pageantry, it’s a stage that has assayed many bands: you either have the tunes and a measure of competency to pull them off convincingly live, or you don’t. You can’t fudge your way through a show here. Fortunately, and unsurprisingly for a guy who has played with illustrious blues legend B.B. King, when it comes to playing guitar, Lang has undeniable chops and no reservations (and why should he?) about showing how good he is on stage.
Right from the opening, thrilling notes of Don’t Stop (For Anything), the infectious country swing riff that underpins Blew Up (The House), through to the final, fan favourite Lie To Me, tonight’s performance is pure entertainment, and not just aurally speaking. Lang’s face gurns and contorts with energy, and he sweats profusely as he rips through his solos, not like soulless shredders Satriani or Steve Vai et al, but like a bomb disposal technician whose life is dependent on hitting every next semitone perfectly. Of course, it goes down a treat with the sold-out crowd – not just with the evident fellow guitar players in the audience, “he’s got a third humbucker!” being just one example of geek bravado that’s overheard.
It’s not just his playing that benefits from being heard live, Lang’s growly vocals are also far more intriguing because frankly, his voice does not match the face. While we’re not talking about the dynamic ability that rivals the late, great Jeff Buckley, there is a slight resemblance in Lang’s willingness to go from a whisper to a howl.
Some praise must go to the four support musicians flanking Lang on stage, they are all equally accomplished, and so every guitar lick, Stevie Wonder cover (Living For The City), extended piano-led jam and every other overt display of showmanship is readily met with applause.
Photos: Emre Zengin
For further information and future events visit Jonny Lang’s website here.
Watch the video for Lie to Me here: