Review/photo by Mike "Suicide" Santoro
Buffalo, NY - Some years back, a friend of mine suggested that we go and see Ray Charles in concert, as we had gone to countless concerts together over the years, so it was no great surprise when he asked me to go see Ray Charles. For whatever reason, at the time, I brushed off the idea and never ended up buying tickets. The last thing my friend said about the subject is that it would only be a matter of time before he (Charles) wouldn't be alive to see perform anymore, and that might have been our last chance. Sure as shit, three months later, he died. It wasn't until the "Ray" movie came out (starring Jamie Foxx), that I was reminded how absolutely stupid I was in dismissing the show. I swore I wouldn't squander the opportunity again when an old legend rolled into town. This past Thursday, another true legend, Johnny Winter, performed at The Tralf in downtown Buffalo, NY, and this time, I was not so foolish as to miss the show. Magic Slim, who is another legend in his own right (and recently featured in the film "Queen City"), had been touring with him, up until a few nights prior, when he ended up hospitalized, and was unable to perform at this show.
It can be argued that some of the best music ever written was penned between the late sixties and seventies, and Johnny Winter is one of a long list from that era. His brand of blues is heavily influenced by the old blues greats, like Muddy Waters. Johnny Winters not only was a big fan of Waters, but he also produced three Grammy winning albums for Waters. Unfortunately, Winters is looking frail these days, with his crooked posture, thinning hair, and a slow step, but he still plays the guitar with remarkable skill.
I was excited to be at the show, and so were the folks who came out to see the show (in great numbers I must add), as the venue was packed to the walls. From the first song of the night, the crowd swiftly harkened back to their glory days. I joked to my one friend that I felt like I was standing at a convention for auto parts counter help. Johnny played some of his signature covers which included two Rolling Stones songs - "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Gimme Shelter," and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61." Being a lengthy show, I would love to tell you the full list of songs, but I was a bit lost in the blues to recall. My only complaint about the show, was the lacking volume of Winter's vocals, a simple board adjustment that was neglected through the entire show.
I was impressed overall with the competency of his band, and the fluency in which they rolled through their set. Johnny Winter is reaching the twilight of his life and won't be touring much longer. I would suggest no one make the mistake I did with Ray Charles. My advice would be, get to the show when it rolls through your town, or you just might miss out on seeing one of the few true legends that are still with us today.