C. J. Walsh
Johnny Winter - Toad's Place, New Haven
Toad’s Place New Haven, Connecticut – USA
January 12, 2008
View: At the back, standing on a rickety chair.
Johnny Winter’s last dozen years has been rife with health problems, management hassles and missed gigs. So it was a pleasant surprise to see his return to form with a solid set, more homage to his roots than greatest hits.
At the outset he was helped to a chair where he remained for the duration. With a cowboy hat perched on his head, he’s dressed entirely in black, all the better to offset the palest skin this side of a cadaver. Fronting a three-piece band that plays with sympathy and some taste, they opened with fellow Texan Freddie King’s Hideaway before launching into the signature tune of another Johnny Guitar (Watson). Despite appearing frail, he still attacks the guitar like no one else.
Whether tackling a classic like Muddy Waters Hoochie Coochie Man that he’s played with the master himself or tunes he heard growing up in the ‘50s like Tore Down, Johnny’s now content to let the songs be the focus. And the voice has enough growl for Ray Charles’ Blackjack and plenty of leer for Sugar Coated Love. Dylan’s Highway 61 still sounds as though it was written especially for Johnny and near the end It’s All Over Now gets the place jumping and everyone singing along like fools.
Though he may be in the twilight and incapable of blasting off the fiery guitar solos of yore, the elder Winter proves he still knows how to smolder.
Published in Record Collector Magazine