Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band has just released “Diamonds & Gold,” the second single and standout track from their first-ever live concert video, Straight To You: Live, out November 27th via Provogue. “’Diamonds & Gold’ is one of my favorite songs from our 2017 release Lay It On Down,” explains Shepherd. “To me, it has all the right elements. A thick groove, hooky guitar riffs and chorus, the horns – everything comes together to create a song that makes you feel good with a bit of humor in the lyrics.”
“People have been asking us to do a live concert video forever, for decades,” Shepherd continues. “We’ve been working so much focusing on studio recordings. But I’ve been hearing the call from the fans for many years now.” As live music has come to a standstill, the band wanted to give fans a taste once again of that experience, and this blistering set shows it to them in full force.
The Live! In Chicago album, the band’s only other live output, was released a decade ago and earned itself a Grammy nomination, but this time around you get to watch the band in its full glory, in addition to listening. Over the past 10 years, the multi-platinum selling artist has gone from strength to strength, winning countless awards, releasing four studio albums and touring the world over several times – from Brazil to Europe, India to Canada, US to Australia and beyond.
The band’s last studio album The Traveler was released in May of last year, giving the band their eighth #1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart. The performance captured on Straight To You: Live took place at the famous Leverkusen Jazzstage for the iconic German TV show, Rockpalast on November 25th, 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of The Traveler World Tour.
The seven-piece band took the stage and immediately launched into their most-recent hit-single “Woman Like You,” with the honey-soaked powerhouse voice of Noah Hunt blasting “I ain’t looking for a one time girl” backed by the fiery fretwork of Shepherd. It’s the first of four songs from The Traveler featured in the set. “The whole intention of this set-list is that we come out with a lot of energy, get the crowd pumped up. We want to get them energized right off the bat.” It slips into the soul-drenched blues of “Long Time Running,” with Chris Layton’s drums firing through the building horn section as Hunt and Shepherd lock-in on duel vocals, whilst blue and yellow lights spray the stage, catapulting you right to the front row of the audience.
“We were really fired up,” he continues. “We had expanded the band and brought in the horn section, it was their first time over to Europe with us. So we were glad to have the full ensemble there. It’s always exciting when we’re incorporating a new album into the live performance. Remembering the show, there were several stand out moments. The song off the new record ‘I Want You,’ is a really extended version, and every soloist gets an opportunity to really shine, and everybody brought it 150%.”
The band never let up, and it’s in a live environment that Shepherd truly lets it rip. The five-time Grammy nominated guitarist has developed a formidable back catalogue that only someone with road-worn life experience can deliver, and this set is besieged with all of the classics. Shepherd prowls the stage on “Diamonds and Gold,” explodes into honky-tonk revelry on the Elmore James cover “Talk To Me Baby,” and stuns with an 11-minute epic version of “The Heat of The Sun.” “On that the band is really focused, everybody is listening to one another, everybody’s working collectively on the dynamics of the song, bringing it down, building it back up, trying to transcend what’s actually happening on stage and take the music to the next level.”
The band continues to shift up gears with a 9-minute version of “Shame Shame Shame,” a selection from Shepherd’s 1995 debut. “The reason why the song goes on the way that it does is because everybody is feeling it and there’s a lot of special moments that I’m proud of. Giving the keyboard and horn guys their moments to shine, and standing back and letting those guys do what they do best, made me feel just as proud as any solo that I played that night,” he enthuses.
While Kenny has had six #1 rock tracks and a slew of top ten songs, no show would be complete without the mega-hit “Blue on Black.” Featured on the band’s second album, the song spent an incredible 42 weeks on the US Billboard Rock Charts, winning Rock Track of the Year, and now has over 25 million streams. “That’s the song that we cannot not walk out onto the stage and play,” says Shepherd. “I’ve been playing that song for more than 20 years, and I still enjoy playing it. As a songwriter it’s the song that you hope you can write. It’s a timeless song that doesn’t really seem to age. A year ago a new version of it came out with the Five Finger Death Punch guys, Brian May, myself and Brantley Gilbert. In the states it went to #1 on the rock charts again. As a songwriter, to have a #1 hit twice with the same song is really rare, and certainly something to be proud of.” The new version of the song has received more than 80 million streams so far.
Talking about not being able to perform live during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shepherd says; “I miss it. Live concert performances are the essence of what we do best. So, not having that in our life is yeah, this has been an eye-opening experience I think for all musicians. It’s been a personal loss for every performer out there who does what we do. A lot of our lives have been spent pouring our heart and soul into that.”
The release of Straight To You: Live comes at a time when there is no live music and the world looks very different than it did 12 months ago, but as you watch the seven-piece Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band bow out on a phenomenal finale of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and wave goodbye to the cheering Leverkusen crowd, it reignites the love of live music and the hope that is still to come.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
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