Walter Trout / Eric Gales - Survival and the Blues
WALTER TROUT AND ERIC GALES
VENUE: CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER
JANUARY 31, 2019
All content by: Patrick Dunn
It had been a week of dangerously cold weather in Minnesota, but that did not stop Twin Cities Blues fans from claiming every available seat at The Cedar Cultural Center on January 31st. In fact, it’s one of the busiest nights I’ve experienced at this long standing, eclectic live music venue. Most in attendance would have been there just the same for either Walter Trout or Eric Gales in their own right, but a co-headlining show of this caliber had people absolutely buzzing with anticipation. It also happened to be the first night of their 2-week outing, which I feel created an extra element of excitement for the performers as well.
“In your face” was the right way to kick this thing off and who better than Eric Gales to deliver on that approach. The full band's groove felt so natural and Gales came in over the top like a tidal wave of tone and feel. Calling Minneapolis his second home, he seemed extra invested in this show and commented, “I’m gonna give you everything I’ve got in my 60-minutes.” After a fierce version of Boogie Man, a staple in Gales’ set, he offered up what he called the most inspirational part of his performance, which surprisingly didn’t even require a guitar.
He began to reveal his story behind the musician, something you may not know about. Gales shared how going through 20+ years of addiction and now celebrating 2 ½ years clean is why he plays what he plays today. It was a fitting setup for the impassioned Southpaw Serenade, which is new material that was available for early purchase that night, prior to the official release date. Gales closed his set with an instrumental jam structured around Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult) where he cleverly weaved in the iconic Prince solo riff from Purple Rain. Always a good choice to get two solid thumbs in this purple town.
The legendary Walter Trout ripped into a more traditional Chicago Blues sound with some lightning fast finger-work and a gritty, seasoned vocal. The band’s shuffle groove came second nature and included the essential Hammond organ sound, which was outstanding at the hands of Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis. Without hesitation, Trout launched into I’m Back (Luther Allison) calling out “here’s one I want to send out to my brother - Mr. Bernard Allison”, who was in attendance.
Trout also had new material to introduce. An ambitious project called Survivor Blues had him looking back through the artform’s rich history for songs he felt were iconic and beautiful, but had not been covered before. His interpretation of Me, My Guitar and the Blues (Jimmy Dawkins) was a standout during which he really found his stride on guitar and at one point even stepped away from the microphone to scream out some of the lyrics. He was feeling it and the crowd was right there with him.
“I have to do something off the Battle Scars album every night.” Trout shared his survival story that led to him receiving a lifesaving liver transplant 4 years ago. “That’s when the real work began” as among other things, he didn’t know how to play the guitar anymore. I’m Almost Gone was an emotional testament to the work he has put in so we could see him perform at the level we’ve come to expect – truly remarkable.
“I don’t want to leave here until we have a jam session with the incredible Eric Gales.” For me, an unexpected benefit coming out of this unique power pairing was having a back-to-back sampling of two very different, but both expert approaches to this treasured genre. Then having it all come together during a finale riff-off battle on the Hendrix classic Red House brought this performance to levels beyond what I even thought possible from this very special engagement.
Thanks to The Cedar, whose layout and ambiance provided the perfect atmosphere to experience this epic show. Having the old movie screen as a backdrop combined with good lighting provided a nice visual and the sound was exceptional in all parts of the room. I look forward to the next great memory this venue has in-store for the Twin Cities.