Johnny Winter Band at The Narrows Center

By A.j Wachtel
June 2015

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The Narrows Center

Fall River, Mass



By A.J. Wachtel

This is a very personal show. All the people in this packed club are connected in some way to Winter and his music; and are here to pay respect to their fallen hero. That's everyone onstage AND in the audience.

Tonight opens with a great documentary of Johnny; recently shot while on the road. To me, the highlight of the flick is hearing Johnny sing an emotional version of Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind"; but there are enough backstage, off the cuff remarks by him that really keep my attention and interest.


While on tour, his tight band more than ably backed him up; as his playing and singing were the main focus of their sets. Tonight's tribute showcases his most well-known songs, and promises to be a little different; more like a guitar slugfest of the highest order. The only thing missing at this great gig is Johnny


His last group, with Paul Nelson on guitar, Scott Spray on bass and Tommy Curiale on drums, is joined by Ronnie Baker Brooks, the son of Blues icon Lonnie Brooks, and New England's James Montgomery, Johnny A and Jay Stollman on harp, guitar and vocals respectively. And they are incredible and very tasty; not unlike the icing on your own birthday cake. THAT's how intimate and special tonight feels.

The highlights of this spectacular show include: ripping versions of "Boney Maroney", Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" from Winter's recently released CD "Step Back", Ray Charles' classic Blues tune "Blackjack", The Stones' "It's All Over Now" and a killer "Jumpin' Jack Flash". I really dig hearing "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo" , "Dust My Broom", "Highway 61" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".

Ronnie Baker Brooks does one of his father's songs: "Don't Take Advantage of Me" where he plays the guitar with his teeth and ends the cover with a segue into Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love". Just wild. Ronnie is a Blues icon and his taking the band into a Rock and Roll finish is well-fit and perfect to symbolically illustrate Johnny's major role in both the Blues and the Rock and Roll genres. In fact, the last song of the night is "Johnny B. Good"; and hearing a Blues guitar great, with his own South Side of Chicago style, playing Chuck Berry's two note leads so well; was both unexpected and exquisite. While introducing the song, Ronnie tells how an 11 year old Johnny came to hear his father play and how Lonnie gave JW a guitar pick. 25 years later, Johnny returned this pick to his Dad and thanked him for being so helpful and such an important influence on his guitar playing. Hearing such a cool story live is like being part of the just seen documentary for all of us. Just great!

By the end of the 3rd tune, the audience rises for a standing ovation and continues this practice, for the rest of the night; after each melody ends.

Seeing Paul Nelson and Ronnie Baker Brooks move together toward center stage from opposite sides and duel with James Montgomery blowing his harp; is simply stellar. Or when James and Ronnie go at it on harp and guitar; playing the same riffs back at each other. Amazing. Paul and Johnny A play so well together and keep acknowledging each other's licks; and it's a real pleasure watching this from the audience. Especially at the end of "Jack Flash" when they play off of each other; appreciating the moment with ear-to-ear grins. Then Johnny A plays slide on a rocking Robert Johnson cut. Really impressive. Another thing I notice is that Jay Stollman's powerful and heartfelt voice gets the lyrics across believably whenever he opens his mouth. And this killer rhythm section, Tommy Curiale on drums and Scott Spray on bass, just drives the music and gets better and better as the almost 2 hour set goes on and on.

A great gig of growling guitars, soaring vocals, a rock solid rhythm section and music and stories about Johnny Winter; at a real cool club. It doesn't get much better than this on a Bluesy Friday night.

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