Johnny Winter and Kim Simmonds may both be past their prime, but both can still put on a good show, as they proved together Saturday night at The Egg.
The double-headliner show featured Winter’s band and Simmonds’ Savoy Brown each playing truncated, hour-long sets before an enthusiastic crowd that filled about two-thirds of the Hart Theatre. And though no one really pulled out any surprises, both bands hit a workmanlike stride early in their sets and pushed through to the end.
Savoy Brown came first up on the bill, playing a set that touched on old favorites and tracks from last year’s “Voodoo Moon.” The 1970s British blues rockers (though now mostly American, as guitarist and leader Kim Simmonds is the only remaining member from the old days) kept things high energy, sticking more to the rock side of the blues-rock equation.
Simmonds wasted no time showing off his chops — set opener “Meet the Blues Head On” featured plenty of noodling lead lines, while vocalist Joe Whiting proved that his pipes were more than up to the task. By the third song, new rager “Natural Man,” the band — also featuring drummer Garnet Grimm and bassist Pat DeSalvo — was completely warmed up and firing on all cylinders.
The undeniable climax of the set was a rip-roaring stomp-through on “Little Red Rooster,” featuring the crowd barking, howling and in one instance crowing. “How can I possibly top that?” Simmonds quipped to the crower — and then proceeded to do just that with an extended solo that ended with Whiting and Simmonds’ call-and-response melodic lines.
Winter and his band — featuring drummer Vito Liuzzi, rhythm guitarist Paul Nelson and bassist Scott Spray — didn’t match the energy that Simmonds and company brought to the stage. You can’t really fault them — Winter has had to sit during live performances in recent years due to a bad hip — but he made up for it with his creative playing and technique, both of which are as sharp as ever.
Opening with the instrumental “Hideaway,” the band soon settled into a mid-tempo groove that lasted for most of the set. “She Likes to Boogie Real Low” featured a winding solo from Winter, while “School Day Blues” kept up the pace with more fancy noodling and Winter’s hoarse croaking taking the lead.
It wasn’t until “Johnny B. Goode” a few songs later that the band really hit its stride, receiving the first of at least three standing ovations. The next song, Ray Charles’ “Black Jack,” was the highlight of the evening, with the band slowing down to a dirge as Winter shredded his guitar into submission.
“Tore Down” gave Liuzzi a chance to step out on lead vocals, offering a nice counterpoint to the rest of the set. Other highlights included the slinky groove of “Don’t Take Advantage of Me” and main set closer “It’s All Over Now,” during which Winter defiantly stood up and played, just like the old days (sort of). He brought out the slide for the encore, ripping through Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” as the audience danced along.
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