My only CD of the man, ‘Lie to Me’ ,has a sticker on it saying ‘DM 29.95’ so the latest disc is more than a little overdue. I almost bought it recently but Mr Music had foolishly put it on headphones and after giving it a listen I didn’t. So why, you may ask, am I standing in a packed and sweaty Harmonie waiting for Jonny Lang to hit the stage? I guess because tickets for the show were sold in days, which made me think that maybe I’m wrong – or maybe the rest of Bonn is?
It’s that time of the year that many rock fans both in and around Bonn especially look forward to – the Rockpalast cameras are in town again for the four-day Crossroads Festival. Not always good, but always interesting; and sometimes not just good, but great.
It’s certainly special for the first band this year. The curiously named Fog Joggers from far away Krefeld. A band with members that previously helped carry the Rockpalast cables about and now were able to stand onstage and enjoy seeing someone else do the physical labor. They make a sympathetic impression and also a very enjoyable musical noise. Somewhere along the line of bands like Moke and Snow Patrol. Soft Rock that from the opener ‘Nowhere Near Enough’ on made an excellent impression. I particularly liked the acoustic ‘Is This Real Life’ and the commercial pop of ‘Waterfalls’ from their debut Album ‘Let’s Call It A Day’. Word was spoken of a follow up disc soon and on this evenings performance it should be well worth a listen. Nice guys, nice music, and only the sweat beginning to run down my neck reminds me I’ve been standing in a very crowded room for two hours. Time (and sweat) flies when you’re having fun at a Crossroads concert.
When Jonny Lang steps onto the stage he is neither the gangly teenager on the cover of my old (1997) CD, nor is he the androgynous face that stares back from the new CD’s cover. He has that square jaw and wholesome American boy look that would make him perfect for the role of Superman in a movie. He only needs to fire up his signature Gibson, hit a few bars from the old Lang favorite ‘A Quitter Never Wins’ and I’m already glad I’m here and thinking it was me that had Lang figured out wrong and everyone else was right after all. Chunky chords, screaming, steely notes, and a an agonized expression that says Lang has been there and bought the hard times biscuit but still had the guts to spit it out. Brilliant stuff. But what is that old line from the Johnny Cash song? “You get your moneys’ worth in the first five minutes and the rest of the evening is free” I was beginning to be glad of that first five minutes as the tempo seemed to stagnate. The solos were all frantically pitched and emotionally charged, but I was looking for a depth that didn’t seem to come.
There was something of the early Elvis in Lang’s introduction of a strong gospel element to the evenings music. ‘Everythings Gonna Be Alright’ he was singing and ‘Meet Me At The River’ where “we will all be going home on that great day”. I was starting to expect a collection box to come round by the songs end. It was a relief when his excellent keyboarder hit the Hammond for a gritty rendition of Stevie Wonders ‘Living for the City’
Did Jonny finally break his Blues pact with the devil, Maybe this Rockpalast Crossroads is where he gets his soul back? A rocking ‘Blow Up The House’ made up a lot of lost ground and was farmore emotional than the recorded version from his new disc. Proof that the beginning wasn’t the only place to get my moneys worth came in the encore of a superb version of the old classic ‘Lie To Me’. Starting plaintively on just acoustic the song spun into a great Rock climax – the very dynamics that were missing for so long had returned at the end at least.
Jonny Lang is (still) a superb guitarist and those crescendos of notes this evening were just leaping from the mans talented fingers like they were bursting to freedom after being held inside these last sixteen years. Now hopefully we can look forward to some great music again when the electrical dust storm has settled. Hopefully Jonny took advantage of being at the Crossroads and took time out to make a new deal with the Blues.