Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
The double bill of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band with Joe Walsh was a highly anticipated event in Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre on October 27. A homecoming event of sorts with Cincinnati native Noah Hunt, lead singer for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, taking the same stage one year after appearing with the traveling Experience Hendrix revue, the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band got down to business early on. Bruising takes on songs from his new long player, How I Go, found Shepherd extending solos along with keyboardist Riley Osbourn on the classic Beatles’ track, “Yer Blues.” Bassist Tony Franklin wowed the sold out throng with his loose limbed bass lines on the barn burners, “Come On” and “I’m a King Bee.” Hunt was the consumate showman, bringing the audience to their feet several times during the night. His booming vocals echoed throughout the aged facility on “Shame Shame Shame” and the radio hit, “Blue on Black.” Louisiana native Shepherd put on a tour de force performance, combining his string bending mastery with bursts of improvised feedback on the Jimi Hendrix gem, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band received a well won standing ovation that shook the Taft’s newly renovated walls. Joe Walsh returned to his beloved Ohio, bearing musical gifts and began with “Welcome to the Club” from his 1975 So What album. “Walk Away” soon followed in an almost rock orchestral arrangement with Walsh’s fined tuned solos taking center stage. He featured his band members on a deluxe cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” Walsh then turned to the 1973 masterpiece, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, for an expansive talk box jamming version of “Rocky Mountain Way.” The James Gang’s “Funk #49” and his ode to the streets, “In the City,” had the denizens on the Taft’s floor dancing in the aisles. Whether he was pushing the envelope on “A Life of Illusion,” or turning up the funk rhythms of “Turn to Stone,” Walsh held the audience’s rapt attention at every turn. Giant video screens churned out vintage filmed images of Walsh on “Life’s Been Good,” and the Taft’s patrons sang along with every word of the legendary song. Uncle Joe closed out the show with a rousing sing a long on the anthem, “All Night Long.” The pairing of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Joe Walsh has turned out to be one of the best entertainments of the fall concert season, and both artists gave blues and rock guitar aficionados at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre many warm memories that will last a lifetime.