LIVE: Kenny Wayne Shepherd / Beth Hart @ the Palace Theatre, 7/27/18

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Review by Dan Hogan

I wasn’t planning to go to this show until my friend Mark called me from Niagara Falls to say he won a pair of tickets from Beth Hart’s Facebook page. Mark came to Albany a couple of years ago and took me to see Beth Hart at The Egg for a show that was okay, but no great shakes. We’ve both seen Kenny Wayne Shepherd a number of times including a time we almost froze to death at the Clearwater, Florida Blues by the Sea Festival in February, 2013 … but that’s a different story. So was Friday night at the Palace Theatre, where a close-to-full crowd got to see a great twin bill.

Shortly after 6pm we stopped at McGeary’s Pub for a bite to eat. Have to give a shout out to Tess Collins and her wonderful staff who served up great food and drink to a number of the people who came to Albany for the show. The couple next to us came from Pittsfield to see Beth Hart, and a number of the people outside said the same thing, with some telling us they had been traveling around to see her shows. The food and service, as always was great.

Hart started right on time at 7:30pm with her band playing on the stage, as she entered from the rear of the theater, singing and greeting her fans who reached out to touch her and take pictures and videos. It was pretty clear that Hart was soaking up all of this good energy that she then put into her 90-minute show.

I seemed to be the only person in the orchestra section who didn’t know all the names and words to the songs, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying he performance. She led a three-piece band of guitar, bass and drums, and the band worked hard all night propelled by drummer Bill Ransom. But the most powerful instrument on the stage was Beth Hart’s voice. She went flawlessly from a whisper to a scream, displaying an awesome command of her voice. The band was tight, though from our seats in the center of the fourth row, the bass sound was flabby, and the guitar sometimes got lost in the mix.

Not knowing her catalogue of songs, I can only report they were well sung, and Beth Hart frequently thanked the audience for their kind support. She had a wonderful rapport with the audience all night, especially the stories about telling her mother she wrote a new song, and her mother asked: “Are you going to scream?” In another she told of battling her addiction to swearing and how she sought guidance from her pastor on how to deal with the songs with F-bombs. The punch line being that she can still swear in the old songs, just don’t write anymore with cuss words. Many of the demons she has faced were on full display in her songs, culminating in a powerful solo rendition of her song: “I’ll Leave the Light On.” Seldom have I ever seen such a beautiful and emotional song performance in the 40 some years I have been going to concerts. The crowd showed its appreciation with a warm standing ovation.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the band must have been listening, too.

Knowing he had a tough act to follow KWS came out cocky and confident, putting his foot through the firewall to unleash four powerful songs in a row – “Somewhere, Somehow, Someway,” followed by “Ride of Your Life,” and “True Lies,” before swaggering into the SRV cover of the “House Is a Rockin’.” Shepherd took over the lead vocals on “House,” and his voice is much improved over the years. He looks older and more mature, and also showed that he is a master of the Stratocaster, forging his own style on the likes of Hendrix, SRV, Clapton and Jeff Beck. His tone and technique were both flawless throughout the night, and he is much better at sharing singing duty with Noah Hunt, sounding what I imagine Eminem would sound like if he abandoned rap to sing in a blues rock band. Hunt’s voice, as always, was strong and clear, and the whole band – with Chris Layton on drums – played together well all night.

Shepherd would play 12 songs total before launching into the encore, with the highlights being a rising and intense version of “Heat of the Sun” and his homage to B.B. King, “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now,” where he put aside his Stratocaster to play a black Gibson ES-335. By the time he left the stage after the song, the crowd was standing and calling for more.

He would return to play “Blue on Black,” followed by his usual concert closer, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” before saying good night to Albany. Overall it was a great night of music for an appreciative and well-behaved crowd of older adults.

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