‘Blue on Black’ and blond, too — Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band rocks Lake Tahoe

Kurt Johnson
Kenny Wayne Shepherd rocks Lake Tahoe in the MontBleu Theatre.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Kurt Johnson

The standing ovations for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band started midway into Saturday’s concert at Lake Tahoe. Like a tide that rises with each wave, more and more fans in the audience stood and roared at the conclusion of each song. And with his long hair looking as bleach blond as a surfer’s, Shepherd rode the waves with the skill and showmanship of a superstar.

“I am trying to get used to having long hair again,” Shepherd said, explaining that he grew out his locks because of requests on Facebook.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-506-LWith his hair flying, the dexterous blues rocker hung 10 fast, fiery fingers across his assembly of Stratocasters to the delight of a sold-out audience in the MontBleu Theatre at Stateline.

Shepherd is among an elite few blues guitarists, including fellow Southerners Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, who do not sing lead. Noah Hunt, who joined the KWSB for the release of its sophomore album, “Trouble Is…,” takes care of most of the singing, along with rhythm guitar and tambourine. Like Shepherd, Hunt sports long hair that hangs over his eyes. While the music from the early days is timeless, so are the players. They look as young now as they did 19 years ago.

The third longhair on stage was bassist Tony Franklin. And for this tour, the band’s original drummer, Sam “The Freight Train” Bryant, is back. The nickname is easy to figure out. Bryant pounds the skins as violently as did Buddy Miles.

Shepherd became a national sensation at the age of 18 with the 1995 release of “Ledbetter Heights,” a reference to a neighborhood in his hometown Shreveport, Louisiana, named for bluesman Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter. ( Shepherd will appear on Feb. 4 at the “Lead Belly Fest” in Carnegie Hall.) After the follow-up record “Trouble Is…” was even more successful, Shepherd was engrained in the music pantheon, a blues player with a rock star delivery.

During his career, Shepherd, 38, has consistently studied and credited the pioneering bluesmen, and during the show he brought his own interpretations of songs by Elmore James, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Shepherd’s greatest influence, Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“Talk to Me Baby,” Shepherd said, is his favorite song by James, and the tune is included on the 2013 album “Can’t Get Enough,” by the supergroup The Rides, which is Shepherd, Barry Goldberg of Electric Flag and Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Rides will release a second album in April and then go on tour, Shepherd said.

“If you like blues and rock and roll, it’s right up your alley,” Shepherd said.

The adoring audience at Lake Tahoe’s largest indoor music venue loved the performance, which included songs from each Shepherd’s albums. The venue’s ambiance was one of euphoria. It reached the crescendo during the final tune of the three-song encore, “Voodoo Child,” made famous by the guitarist Shepherd didn’t even need to mention, Jimi Hendrix.

  • Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
    Jan. 30, 2016
    MontBleu Theatre, Stateline
  • “Never Lookin’ Back”
    “Everything is Broken”
    “Kings Highway”
    “True Lies”
    “House is Rockin’ ”
    “Heat of the Sun”
    “Talk to Me Baby”
    “Deja Voodoo”
    “Born with at Broken Heart”
    “Looking Back”
    “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now”
    “Shotgun”
  • Encore
    “Blue on Black”
    “King Bee”
    “Voodoo Child”
    Editor’s note: To see images of the full set, go to Kurt Johnson’s website HEREKenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-137-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-709-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-717-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-14-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-103-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-201-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-237-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-288-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-339-XL Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-424-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-438-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-440-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-474-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-529-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-619-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-679-L Kenny Wayne Shepherd @ Montbleu 01-30-2016-688-L

ABOUT Tim Parsons

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.

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3 Responses

  1. Was right up front….got some great pics as well (not as good as yours!).

    KWS went into a trance during several of his solos. Fantastic show!!!

    Sorry I missed you Tim. Give me a call.
    Dave

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