Lang’s in his early thirties now, but on Wednesday night he showed the capacity crowd at Ohio’s Akron Civic Theatre he’s just getting started.
Opening for blues master Buddy Guy, Lang sizzled through a seventy-minute set that touched on all almost points in his remarkable career, beginning with a fiery “Freight Train.”
Accompanied by Nashville guitarist Akil Thompson and keyboardist Dwan Hill, and Minneapolis peers Barry Alexander (drums), and Jim “Jamie” Anton (bass), the spiky-haired Lang wielded his gold Gibson Les Paul with the authority of players twice his age. But play he can—devastatingly—with a pick or without, eyes open or shut.
Clad in a mint green tee and grey jeans, Jonny said hello but let his guitars do the rest of the talking.
“You guys are a wonderful audience,” he greeted. “Hope you all have a good time tonight!”
Lang’s Lie to Me cover of the Tinsley Ellis-penned “A Quitter Never Wins” segued into the smoldering, gospel-tinged “Turn Around,” triggering a round-robin of extending soloing by Anton (slap bass), Hill (organ), and Alexander. The music continued even as Lang introduced his peers, dissolving into an almost reggae-flavored chant of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”
“The choices you make might be mistakes,” he wailed. “But it’s never to late to turn around.”
Lang worked both sides of the stage while soloing, tossing his head back and smiling or conferring with Alexander for percussive flourishes. Lang gave the impression that he’d still have a killer air guitar face even if he couldn’t actually play the instrument.
“Red Light” (from 2003’s Long Time Coming) saw the first of many extended jams, during which Lang would slow the tempo and ease the dynamics, singing in sweet falsetto, only to rebuild the grooves to dizzying, blissfully noisy climaxes. A cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” (from Wonder’s 1973 LP Innervisions) was particularly inspired (and boasted a guitar solo by Akil), but Lang’s own “That Great Day” furthered the soulful tradition.
The set concluded with the aching “Angel of Mercy” (from 1998’s Wander This World), on which Lang tweaked a battleship grey Fender Telecaster Thinline.
View the Buddy Guy Akron slideshow here: http://www.examiner.com/review/blues-master-buddy-guy-scorches-akron-civ...