Article By Mariko Margetson
From Fall/Winter Vandala Magazine 2017 (Free HERE)
I often know if I’m going to enjoy myself at a concert based on the music that is playing before the opener takes the stage. On November 29th before Zane Carney opened for Johnny Lang at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, the Black Crowes were emanating through the venue. Definitely a good sign.
When Zane Carney strolled onto the stage he was cradling his signature Hofner Guitar and sporting a full-length tweed jacket that he joked would have to be removed after the first song. He had the crowd charmed well before he strummed his first chord with an ease only those born to bathe in the limelight can conjure.
The set that followed was a carefully curated showcase of his vast technical abilities and a sample of his musical artistry. The majority of songs were originals, beginning with Talk to Me Baby, the second track from his debut Album Confluence. He also showed off his live looping skills and defiantly broke the cardinal sin of playing two cover songs in a row starting with Arthur Hamilton’s classic Cry Me a River. He followed that up with a crushing version of the Beetles notable hit Come Together.
His sound is a rich fusion of styles that include jazz, blues, funk and hard rock. Vocally I would describe him as a psychedelic crooner. If you want to know what that means, go see him play live. You’ll get an inkling of what that means from his album, but there is a rawness to his live performance that will draw you in. It’s no wonder that John Mayer and fellow guitar virtuoso Jonny Lang choose to play with him in their respective bands.
Speaking of Jonny Lang, I had a feeling the 36 year old guitar wielding gospel singer from Middle America was going to blow me away and he absolutely did. Lang started his performance with his back to the audience sporting a black ACDC t-shirt and charcoal jeans before tearing into Don’t Stop (For Anything). It was a wise decision. I’m not sure we all would have survived if he were to hit us with everything all at once.
I remember watching the video for Lie to Me some 20 years ago when Jonny was just reaching stardom and thinking that music had a hold on this young person and it didn’t look like it was about to let him go without a fight. Safe to say that battle still rages only now it’s clear that Jonny Lang has the upper hand.
Jonny Lang live is a jaw-dropping experience. What you’re watching doesn’t quite match what you’re hearing. What you’re hearing is mind-bending guitar licks and fervent vocals in a successful union of gospel, blues, hard rock and even funk. Meanwhile, you are watching a wrestling match between a writhing mythical beast and a rebellious six-string guitar.
Instinct tells me I was one of the few in the crowd witnessing this for the first time. Some concertgoers stood still and fixated on the stage while others moved and grooved and wiggled and jiggled.
One highlight of the evening was a sing-a-long during Jonny’s tune Red Light in which the crowd was instructed to sing “everything’s gonna be alright” between refrains. Another was a few rounds of dueling guitars between Jonny Lang and Zane Carney. It started out as playful banter before escalating into a tornado of noise where both artists summoned their sounds into a series of high pitched howls. During the encore, we were lucky enough to get a few minutes of Jonny Lang unplugged as he began to sing Breakin’ Me. As he expertly fused that song with Lie to Me, the crowd responded with applause and cheers, and soon the rest of the band was back on stage to close out the night.
I have to admit that the evening left me feeling rather euphoric. I go to shows and write about them because I love music and there is always something to appreciate any time an artist or group performs live. But it’s becoming more and more rare that musicians fully give themselves up to the art of expression the way that Jonny Lang, his band, and Zane Carney did that night. So while I can honestly say I enjoy every show, this was the type of show that inspires me to keep going.
Visit Jonny Lang online to check out his latest album “Signs” and to catch him live on his 2018 American tour.