Jonny Lang At The Canyon Club
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By Crystal Larsen
Agoura Hills, Calif.
For a venue that boasts the tagline, "Where music meets the soul," GRAMMY-winning blues/rock guitarist Jonny Lang was the perfect choice to take the stage on a chilly summer night July 25 at the quaint Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, Calif. Though only 32, Lang has made an impressive mark on music with four Billboard 200-charting albums and a GRAMMY. And on this night, he no doubt left his mark on the souls of everyone in attendance.
On the cusp of releasing Fight For My Soul, his first studio album in seven years, due Sept. 17, Lang took the stage with his four-piece band comprising Nashville musicians Dwan Hill (keyboards) and Akil Thompson (guitar) and Minneapolis mainstays Barry Alexander (drums) and James Anton (bass). They launched the set with "Don't Stop (For Anything)" from Lang's 2006 GRAMMY-winning album Turn Around. The performance was the first of many to highlight Lang's critically acclaimed guitar style. (His vibrato technique has drawn comparisons to Albert and B.B. King.)
The only downside of the night was the arrangement of the venue, which was set up to accommodate guests who paid to enjoy dinner while watching the show. I only wish I could have been closer to get a better view of Lang's technique, but even from where I was standing his command over his instrument was infectious. As he leaned into each solo, the audience leaned in in hopes of feeling what he was feeling. The emotion of his songs was just as palpable, especially during the night's second song, "A Quitter Never Wins," a bluesy number from his 1997 major label debut album Lie To Me, which he released at the ripe age of 15. If you've ever seen Bill Murray in the dinner scene What About Bob? — that was me during this song. I can only describe it as, "Mmm."
Collective hums and claps from the band led us into "Turn Around," an uplifting song about learning to live with your mistakes, followed by the slower tempo "Red Light," another song about moving forward. The song closed with the audience and band chanting together: "Everything's gonna be alright." Next was a tribute to Stevie Wonder as Lang brought to stage singer Missy Hale to lend her voice to "Living For The City." The two complemented each other well, with Hale exhibiting the perfect female counterpoint to Lang's raspy vocals.
After introducing his band and relaying to the crowd how happy he was to be playing the Canyon Club again, Lang exited the stage for a short while before returning solo to begin his encore with a proper tribute to blues staple Muddy Waters with "Forty Days And Forty Nights." Lang's facial expressions after every note told me he was feeling that performance just as much as we were.
To my delight, the final performance began with an acoustic arrangement of "Lie To Me." Drenched in sweat from head to toe (the woman next to me even yelled, "Sweat, baby, sweat!"), Lang didn't slow down as he kicked into the chorus shortly before being rejoined by his band for a full-blown electric performance of his first hit.
I left the Canyon Club with tired feet and moist eyes. To borrow from Elton John, I guess that's why they call it the blues.
"Don't Stop (For Anything)"
"A Quitter Never Wins"
"Living For The City" (Stevie Wonder cover)
"That Great Day"
"Angel Of Mercy"
"Forty Days And Forty Nights" (Muddy Waters cover)
"Lie To Me"
To catch Jonny Lang in a city near you, click here for tour dates.