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Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Los Lonely Boys turn the heat up in Tucson

Kenny Wayne Shepherd band
Kenny Wayne Shepherd band
©Mary F. Andrews

Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Los Lonely Boys Live in concert

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The guitar gods smiled sweetly on Tucson last night when Los Lonely Boys and Kenny Wayne Shepherd brought their tour to the Rialto theatre. The house was packed to the rafters as Los Lonely Boys took the stage like a shot from a cannon and gave a nonstop, relentless performance. Kenny Wayne Shepherd kept up the momentum for the rest of the evening giving the crowd some righteous blues and rock.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd live inTucson at the Rialto Theatre
© M F Andrews

Los Lonely Boys is a three-sibling band that hails from San Angelo, Texas. The “boys” have been playing since they were children and were the backing band for their father, Ringo Garza, Sr. The Garza brothers – guitarist Henry, bassist Jo Jo and drummer Ringo – are a tightly woven unit of musicians who’ve managed to step beyond the Hendrix/SRV/Santana roots of their beginnings to create their own unique rock blend.

This tour does not have a headliner as announced by Kenny Wayne Shepherd. “We flip flop on who opens and closes the show.” This show was opened by Los Lonely Boys, and, from the first note, they connected with the crowd. This connection seemed to be a religious experience between the band and the fans. If you not already a fan at the beginning of the set, you became a fierce fan within a couple of songs. The audience packed in front of the stage waving their hands in the air and shouting encouragement. Jo Jo and Ringo are as solid a rhythm section as you can get. But Henry’s amazing six-string acrobatics and his sophisticated grasp of subtlety brought the house down. Henry commanded the attention of the crowd and he got it! The set ended with “Heaven” and it was.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd kept up the pace established by LLB by starting his set with rock songs “Never Lookin’ Back,” “Somehow,” and “House Is Rockin’.” These were but warm up songs. By the time Kenny hit his blues groove, warm up time was over and he got down to business.

Kenny was has been blessed (or cursed) with being donned a child prodigy guitar player. He is a self-taught musician and does not read music. He met Stevie Ray Vaughn at the age of seven and was playing on stage by the age of 13. The loss of guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and Duane Allman had left a gap that audiences have been anxious to fill. Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s early notoriety held a promise to fill that gap. Time has passed and it is apparent that Kenny wanted more than just imitating or filling the gap.

Noah Hunt provided most of the lead vocals even though Kenny did more vocals than ever before. Chris "Whipper" Layton, who played drums for Vaughn and Double Trouble, is Shepherd's drummer. His band also features veteran bassist Tony Franklin (who played in the Jimmy Page-led supergroup The Firm) and keyboardist Riley Osbourn (who has backed up Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett).

Elmore James’ “Talk To Me Baby” officially got Kenny into the blues groove, coupled with a rousing piano solo by Osbourn, got the audience on their feet to dance for the rest of the night. An extra treat was when Henry Garza joined Kenny and the band for their version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. The guitar improvisation was relentless. Check out the complete set list here.

This was a show steeped in guitar goodness as rich as your mom’s best fudge. If this tour comes your way, by all means GO!