By Peter Sloggatt
If you were stone deaf, you could have heard Jonny Lang’s guitar. The young guitar legend playing the middle slot of a triple bill at The Paramount in Huntington Tuesday night, sandwiched between openers the North Mississippi Allstars, a raucous brassy blues band, and the soulful rocker J.J. Grey.
Jonny came out swinging.
Lang, a legend at age 12 when he played for Buddy Guy, jumped right in showing his guitar chops in “Don’t Stop For Anything,” and another song from his latest album, “Signs.”
Lang’s guitar work speaks for itself, but his you could have heard those licks if your world went stone, cold silent. He played with the intensity of a stadium performer with big strokes, exaggerated movements and wildly contorted facial expressions.
And why not, the 36-year-old has played more than his share of stadiums. In fact he tells a story about the first time he met Eric Clapton. One of Lang’s many guitar idols, Clapton and he were to share the stage at the Crossroads concert. On stage in front of 30,000 people, “we ended up standing next to each other and he said, ‘Hey, so here we are’,”Lang said.
Lang said Clapton was one of his idols.
“His ‘From The Cradle’ was one of those albums where I had to learn every riff.”
Jonny brought the stadium show to the Paramount, dripping sweat, screaming with sound and giving the audience more than what they came for.
The 10-song set included hits from his songbook – “Snakes” and the playful “Rack ‘Em Up” – as well as a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ In The City.” It sounded fresh and contemporary in Lang’s hands.
The energy level barely let up on the way to the final encore, a bluesy, pained, riff-riven “Breakin’ Me/Lie To Me,” perhaps his best known song.
The three acts added up to a four-hour night that left the audience in a festival mood.
I’ll give Lang’s stadium-worthy performance more than a little credit for that.