LIVE: Walter Trout @ The Strand, Hudson Falls, 11-14-2021
A Great Blues Rocker with Stories To Tell
His ego extended only as far as where his fingers join his hands, but his soul blanketed a sold-out crowd at the 325-seat Strand Theater in Hudson Falls Sunday afternoon. Dressed in a black t-shirt, baggy jeans, and cheap sneakers, Walter Trout put on a two-hour blues-rock extravaganza without any of the usual trappings of a rock star.
Make no mistake, the razzle-dazzle one would expect from a John Mayall guitar alumnus was on full display, but it was all contained in his fretwork. Everything else about his delivery was a sincere one-on-one connection with his fans by an artist who earned his blues creds on a trip to hell and back four years ago.
Walter was so near death when he received his liver transplant, he couldn’t speak or move a muscle as he lay prostrate in a hospital bed.
The last pre-holiday stop on his current tour, Walter was hours away from a plane flight back to California to rejoin his manager and wife Marie at their home down a cul-de-sac overlooking the Pacific. It was Marie that held his hand when he came out of the liver transplant operation. As part of a running commentary throughout his two-hour set, he described to his fans his condition. He couldn’t function at all and didn’t even recognize his guitar, let alone play it. For more than a year he spent eight hours a day reacquainting himself with the strings of his obsession born when at 18 he walked away from his job as a garbageman in New Jersey to see Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.
Before the show, he told me John Mayall used to call him the Peter Pan of his band. For five years from 1984 to ’89, Walter played lead guitar for the British bluesman who set the blueprint for blues-rock when he and his band The Blues Breakers recorded The “Beano” album with Eric in Clapton ’65. Walter’s next album already in the can for the spring 2022 release features a stringed orchestra on one cut. Each release since his transplant has pushed the creative envelope on the career of a man who vows never to grow up but somehow becomes more mature with each release. He’s a man who wears his emotions openly in autobiographical songs like “Ordinary Madness,” the title cut of the most recent album.
Walter’s road manager Anthony Grisham introduced him by asking the audience to welcome “the man who is gonna take you to church.” Songs included “I’m Almost Gone,” “I’m A Boomer” about “a geriatric who likes his music loud,” “Heaven in Your Eyes,” “Ordinary Madness,” “Red Sun” from Survivor Blues, and “All Out of Tears” written with Teeny Tucker and winner of the 2021 Blues Music Award for Song of the Year.
Walter’s first salvo Sunday afternoon was a run across the fretboard of his Strat as his band waited their turn to kick in. This is a band that included Greg Rzab who was Buddy Guy’s bass player when I spent a week on tour with Buddy in 1989 while writing his authorized biography Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues.
After the show, Rzab lamented the fact that his long-time gig with Mayall is about to disappear. Mayall is retiring. Rzab says that in recent dates he’s had to jumpstart the 87-year-old blues master by telling him what the next song’s going to be in what has turned into an adventure in the vein of Glenn Campbell’s last hurrah.
This was keyboardist Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis first tour with Walter. His credits include Carole King, Guns N’ Roses, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Alice Cooper, and Bruce Willis.
Drummer Michael Leasure has been with Walter for 14 years and formerly was in the Edgar Winter Band.
The group performed like they’d all been with Walter forever.
I’ve seen many shows in the last couple of years at The Strand. It’s a theater that every musician who plays there falls in love with. It’s a community project with an international reach, and Walter did them proud.