Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Sunday 23rd April 2023
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
In 1984 a seven-year old KWS met Stevie Ray Vaughan; by 1997 he was recording his sophomore album ‘Trouble Is…’ with all three members of Double Trouble making guest appearances. Drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton is now a member of the KWS Band (although sadly unavailable for this tour), whose leader can reasonably claim to be the keeper of the SRV flame.
The current tour is an extension of the one which began last year to mark the 25th anniversary of ‘Trouble Is…’ Vocalist Noah Hunt and Layton’s first call deputy Sam “Freight Train” Bryant (who was the band’s regular drummer from 1996 until 2002) both played on the original album; Joe Krown (keyboards) and Kevin McCormick (bass) have, like Layton, been on board since 2017. The band is clearly a well-oiled machine.
KWS explained early in the show that ‘Trouble Is…’ would be played in its entirety, but (unlike the 2022 re-recording of the album) with the running order changed in order to provide a better concert experience; an extended encore would showcase a handful of songs from his more recent albums.
Sadly, transport problems ensured that I didn’t arrive at the venue in time to hear more than the closing notes of the title track, but it is probably fairly safe to assume that it saw a lengthy guitar solo after Hunt’s vocals, as this formula was adhered to in the following three songs (Bob Dylan’s composition ‘Everything Is Broken’ being sandwiched between ‘Somehow, Somewhere, Someday’ and ‘Chase The Rainbow’).
KWS explained the evening’s programme as an introduction to ‘I Found Love’, which has apparently taken on a new life as the wedding song of choice for his fans; Hunt contributed rhythm guitar to this song. ‘Nothing To Do With Love’, which boasts Frankie Miller among its writers, showed off some funky wah wah guitar work, before Hunt introduced ‘King’s Highway’ as “the sound of Louisiana”.
After ‘True Lies’ the band seemed to find an extra gear during a fabulous version of ‘(Long) Gone’, with Krown’s solo in between two fine ones from KWS. The cover version of ‘I Don’t Live Today’ (from Jimi’s ‘Are You Experienced’, 1967) saw KWS solo seated on the floor at the rear of the stage, wedged between his amp and the drum riser, as he coaxed the desired feedback from the equipment.
This brought us to ‘Blue On Black’, a fine song, but one whose popularity and success appears to have surprised even KWS himself; although the album spawned three other singles in the USA, it was this one which reached #1 in Billboard magazine’s mainstream Rock chart there and ensured that ‘Trouble Is…’ spent a record number of weeks in the same publication’s Blues chart. In 2019, Heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch released a cover version with Country singer Brantley Gilbert sharing the lead vocal and KWS and Brian May providing guest guitar solos.
‘Slow Ride’ opened the original album, but was used to close the main part of the live set, before the band moved on to the five song encore, which, at around 50 minutes, was more like a second set in its own right. ‘Woman Like You’ and ‘I Want You’ are both from ‘The Traveler’ (2019), with the latter featuring another keyboard solo and Hunt picking up his electric guitar to play rhythm on this song and ‘Diamonds & Gold’ (from ‘Lay It On Down’, 2017), which followed.
Diamonds also featured lengthy solos by Krown and McCormick, but the final two songs were all about the leader and rightly so. Hunt switched to acoustic guitar for ‘Heat Of The Sun’ (from ‘How I Go’, 2011), as KWS ripped off two amazing solos, the second of which he played seated on one of the monitors at the edge of the stage.
For true lovers of the Blues (as opposed to Blues/Rock), the night’s highlight may well have been the closing ‘You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now’, the B.B. King song which KWS covered on ‘Goin’ Home’ (2014). Hunt is probably not a natural Blues singer and wisely vacated the stage, so that the spotlight fell squarely and deservedly on KWS and his guitar.
KWS told us that work on his next album is at an advanced stage, so there should be a tour in support of it in the foreseeable future, which is definitely something to look forward to. Perhaps a different venue might help, though, if the Empire intends to keep the downstairs stalls as a seated area; I’m sure many of us in the upper balconies would have preferred to had been standing closer to the action.
Trouble Is…; Somehow, Somewhere, Someday; Everything Is Broken; Chase The Rainbow; I Found Love (When I Found You); Nothing To Do With Love; King’s Highway; True Lies; (Long) Gone; I Don’t Live Today; Blue On Black; Slow Ride; Woman Like You; I Want You; Diamonds & Gold; Heat Of The Sun; You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now.