Saturday, August 16, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Rock 'N' Blues Fest - "A Tribute to Johnny Winter" / Melbourne, FL / 8.13.14 (Guest Post)

- A Tribute to Johnny Winter -
w/ Edgar Winter
Vanilla Fudge / Peter Rivera
Kim Simmonds
King Center / Melbourne, FL / 8.13.14  

Michelle Wilson returns with 
another front row concert review. 
I really wish I had seen this one.

The recent passing of legendary guitar virtuoso, Johnny Winter, was a devastating loss to legions of musicians and fans throughout the world. With his unrivaled guitar skills and unique style, the Texas bluesman has left his indelible mark on the music industry. Before his untimely death, Winter was scheduled to headline the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest along with the Edgar Winter Band, Vanilla FudgePeter Rivera formerly of Rare Earth and Kim Simmonds  of Savoy Brown. In homage to Winter, the tour transformed into a celebration of the icon’s musical legacy. Thanks to promoter, Brevard Music Group, the collective embarked upon Melbourne, Florida’s King Center for the Performing Arts for a night of lively, upbeat music, stellar acoustics and engaged fans.

ROCK 'N' BLUES FEST - Melbourne, FL  (8.13.14)
Kicking it all off at precisely 8pm was legendary Welsh blues guitarist and founding member of Savoy Brown, Kim Simmonds. Touted as one of the leading innovators of late 1960s British blues and influenced by the likes of John Lee Hooker and John Mayall, Savoy Brown’s early sound was steeped in Chicago blues. Simmonds 20-minute set offered up some cuts from his latest record, “Goin’ to the Delta,” including the title cut and “Nuthin’ Like the Blues” as well as “Poor Girl” from “Looking In, ” during which Simmonds showcased a masterful harmonica solo. Backed by Edgar Winter’s brilliant band members including guitarist Doug Rappoport, bassist Koko Powell and drummer Jason Carpenter, the combination of Simmonds’ high energy, incredible guitar skills and outstanding vocals set the tone for the remainder of the dynamic show.

Next up was Peter Rivera, and the drummer / lead vocalist and founding member of Rare Earth never played or sounded better. Also supported by Winter’s band but with Carpenter moving over to the Hammond B3, Rivera and company delivered rousing renditions of Rare Earth classics including “Hey Big Brother,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” “Get Ready” and “I Just Want to Celebrate,” all of which were written and performed by others but covered by Rare Earth. Rappoport and Powell provided additional beautiful backing harmonies. It was a thrill to watch Rivera behind the kit as he impressed the audience with his masterful skills during the 25-minute set.


Boasting three of its original four members and taking the stage just shy of 9pm, Vanilla Fudge members included singer / keyboardist Mark Stein, guitarist Vince Martell and quintessential drummer Carmine Appice, as well as Powell on bass. Known for their reinterpreted, psychedelic covers, the seasoned players delighted the crowd with such memorable hits as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Shotgun” and “People Get Ready,” which they dedicated to Johnny Winter. Stein’s vocal range is still incredible and Martell is a joy to watch as he plays guitar, but it’s Appice who steals the show.  Unquestionably one of the most transcendent drummers ever, I was enthralled by Appice’s tremendous talent, especially from my front row vantage point. 

EDGAR WINTER (8.13.14)
As renowned as his brother Johnny, Edgar Winter has a stellar musical history of his own, fusing a jazz, blues and rock flavor that boasts more than 20 records. Following a brief intermission, Winter and his band graced the stage and opened with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” a clear reference to his late brother, and then followed it up with the John D. Loudermilk-penned “Tobacco Road,” which Edgar dedicated to Johnny. The multi-talented instrumentalist, who played saxophone, keyboard and timbales throughout, delivered such renowned hits as "Frankenstein," Dan Hartman’s "Free Ride" and Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61,” during which Simmonds came on stage and played killer slide. Wrapping up the event, Edgar was joined by everyone for a snappy version of the Jagger / Richards staple, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” to end the epic evening. Admittedly, I was a bit perplexed by the song and artist choice, as I would have expected the show to close with a Johnny Winter song. Having said that, however, it still was quite an enjoyable experience peppered with guitar and drum solos, and one that undoubtedly would have done Johnny proud.

-Michelle Wilson
(August 2014)

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