Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band plus special guest Ben Poole Band

Wednesday 15th April 2015

O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom

This was the final night of a very successful five date UK Tour for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. I saw The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley, West Sussex of all places last year and it was a fantastic show. I was excited

Opening the show was twenty five year old guitarist Ben Poole from Brighton and his three piece band which included Matt Beeble (bass), Craig Bacon (drums) and a really skilled keyboard player whose name escapes me. ‘Love Nobody More’ had stunning vocals which really did remind me of Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. He dedicated one song ‘Time Might Never Come’ to the late Gary Moore who Ben was fortunate to perform with and it did have echoes of ‘Parisienne Walkways’ within the guitar tones.  Ben Poole goes from strength to strength as a performer and he has a fantastic band with him. The Ben Poole Band is really one to watch.

The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band kicked off their set with ‘Never Lookin’ Back’ from his 2011 album ‘How I Go’ and it was great to see and hear Riley Osborne on keyboards as he was not on the 2014 UK tour. Bob Dylan’s ‘Everything Is Broken’ featured the stunning vocals of Noah Hunt who has a voice that is as smooth as silk and it showed that a band this versatile can take ay song they like and make it their own.  Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘House Is a Rockin’ is a really fun song and you can tell the band have a lot of fun playing it live.

Although he has had a twenty-five year career with five Grammy nominations, he was promoting his new 2014album ‘Goin’ Home’ which sees the band paying homage to the blues artists that have inspired them such as Freddie King, Albert King, B.B.King and Muddy Waters. The thing is, it would be very easy for Kenny Wayne to say ‘Ok. Let’s do this album as note for note covers.’ But then that has never been what this band has been about at all. They take songs and add their own blues-rock flavour to it whilst still being respectful to the music they grew up listening too.

An interesting thing about Kenny Wayne Shepherd is that he is part of a blues rock group called The Rides which includes Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills and Nash) and Barry Goldberg. They released their debut album ‘Can’t Get Enough’ last year and one of the songs on the album was Iggy and The Stooges ‘Search and Destroy’ which is a great song anyway. But when the band went into the song it was a magical moment as the song just suited them perfectly.

A highlight of the set was ‘Heat of the Sun’ in which Kenny played like a demon as the chords just rang out and Chris Layton helped keep it going with Noah Hunt on acoustic guitar. It was quite a moving performance.

Kenny stopped briefly to announce his incredible band and explained that drummer Chris Layton (Double Trouble) was flying back to Ohio, United States the next day to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The crowd erupted with applause and delight. A well-deserved award in my opinion.

‘This is the song that introduced the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band to the world!’ he bellowed before going into ‘Deja Voodoo’ from his first album ‘Ledbetter Heights’ and straight away I thought ‘No wonder his material has been so well-received over the years!’

Coming back onstage to rousing applause, they began the encore with fan favourite ‘Blue on Black’ from the 1997 album ‘Trouble Is…’ and ‘I’m A King Bee’ let Noah’s vocals shine. Kenny Wayne is not only a technically skilled guitar player but he also gives his band space and lets them do their thing onstage. This band has gone so far because the musicianship is first-class, the songs are fantastic and the band members all have complete respect for each other and this two-hour show proved that.

When they are next over in the UK on tour, you should definitely check them out.

Words: Glenn Sargeant


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(Thanks to Pete Sargeant, Kieran White for the photos, Ben Poole and both Asher Alexander and Peter Noble at Noble PR for help with this review)