Living like a sage, Tab Benoit has his moments onstage

Tahoe Onstage

Tab Benoit brings his well-worn guitar and the Whiskey Bayou Revue to Crystal Bay Casino.
Michael Smyth /Tahoe Onstage photos

Live in the present. The foundation of Buddhism also can apply to entertainment. Attend a Tab Benoit concert and you’ll see.

Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Revue plays Friday at the Crystal Bay Casino. Record labelmates Eric McFadden and Eric Johanson will open. Benoit’s early onstage appearances were as a drummer and a comedian. He will do both, backing McFadden and Johanson on drums before he breaks out his splintered, old guitar and cracks wise in between his songs.

He’s a Louisiana wetlands bluesman influenced by Albert Collins and George Carlin.

“To this day I’ve never seen anyone command an audience like George Carlin,” Benoit said before a previous Lake Tahoe appearance. “He had the whole crowd laughing so hard. I was gasping for air. I felt like an idiot because I was about to pass out and I looked around and everybody around me was doing the same thing. He knew how far to push it right before we passed out. He would pause for a second and let us catch our breath. He was that good.”

Benoit is a master storyteller.

“He’ll embellish stories a little bit over time and then they eventually become these outlandish tales,” McFadden said. “He’s always in the moment. He likes to socialize. If you are having a conversation with him, he’s attentive and focused, and if he’s onstage, he’s completely in it.”

Benoit explained how living in the present enhances his performance.

“Doing standup helped me play the way that I play. Everything is improvised and off the cuff. Take each moment for what it is and make the best out of that instead of trying to create moments out of thin air. That gave me a lot more confidence to just release myself to the moment and just let it happen.

“I can’t stand rehearsing and I can’t stand watching a band that is so rehearsed that you know they don’t even have to think about it to play it. What good is that? You want the guys who are in the band to be fully into the moment so that you can get into the moment as an audience member. I don’t want to deprive the audience of that.”

Benoit beats his Telecaster Thinline guitar like a drum. During a show in Reno last year, he said, “This guitar didn’t look this was when I bought it. This is the result of Courvoisier and sweat.”

McFadden talked about Benoit’s guitar style.

“He’s got great phrasing and he’s really aggressive,” McFadden said. “He just digs in. But he’s also very dynamic and nuanced. When Tab plays, you feel he’s completely digging in there and just taking everything he’s got in there and putting it out. I really appreciate that. He plays with a good amount of passion and fire.”

Benoit has been the recipient of the greatest Blues Foundation honor, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. He’s a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. As president of the Voice of the Wetlands, he’s an environmental activist.

Yet, he waxed humility during his show in Reno.

“It’s nice that I can go to The Home Depot and not be recognized except by you and a few other cool people,” he said. “Does anybody have a request?”

There was a huge audience response.

“I said anybody, not everybody,” said Benoit, before commenting about all the different songs titles people called for. “It’s all my stuff! That’s pretty awesome. We’ve gotten out of the ‘Free Bird’ range.”

— Tim Parsons

Related story: Eric McFadden — punk, funk and other junk.

  • Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Revue
    Featuring Eric McFadden and Eric Johanson
    When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8
    Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room (seated show)
    Tickets: $25
    Red Room after-party: Jason King Band

    Tahoe Onstage

    Tab Benoit on drums.

    Tahoe Onstage

    Eric Johanson will open the show.
    Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage



About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

One comment

  1. We are huge fans. You might even call us old groupies (literally as we’re 70 and 71.) We’ve seen him at his Wetlands Festival, in New Orleans, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and just returned from seeing him on a Blues Cruise where he emceed a bingo game you’re never gonna have in a Catholic church. Not only an amazing musician but great comedy chops. I stood one person away from him on the deck of the ship happily inhaling his cigar smoke and was thrilled. I hate cigar smoke. That’s how much I love him.

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