Vaughan sound's hot, despite arena woes
by L. M. Collins
The Deseret News
October 10, 1985
Stevie Ray Vaughan was 10 years old when he first heard a Lonnie Mack album, and loved it. Years later, when he was playing in Texas, Mack heard him, and helped his career along. Vaughan returned the favor by producing a Mack album, when Mack started to make a comeback after an absence from the concert and recording arena. And Wednesday night at the State Fairgrounds coliseum, the circle came around again when Mack opened the show for Vaughan.
It hardly seems fair to call Lonnie Mack the warm-up act. With a three-man backup and the same Gibson Flying V guitar that he started out with in 1958, Mack proved conclusively that he hasn't lost any of his ability to create a unique blend of blues and country sounds, with overtones of contemporary rock, which he exhibited during his renditions of "Hound Dog Man," "Satisfy Susan," [sic] "Lolita," the very jazzy "Cincinnati Jail" and "Stop," among others.
Vaughan was plagued from the beginning with a series of small, but nevertheless nagging problems. In the first place, the coliseum's acoustics are terrible, so that, in the words of one member of the audience, even the best performer sounds "like a high-school band." Sometimes one of his songs was familiar, but with the acoustic problems, it was hard to tell exactly what it was.
Vaughan's second problem is his voice. While he is a veritable wizard at guitar work, coaxing - and at times almost beating - a great deal of passion and emotion out of his guitar, making the '59 Stratocaster moan and groan and sizzle, his voice is unexciting, and tends to get lost in the music. There were times when I wanted him to shut up and just let me hear the guitar. The voice was distracting, because instead of sitting back and just enjoying the music, you had to strain to hear the words.
It is easy to spot the rhythm and blues influence in Stevie Ray Vaughan's music. Many of his songs start out like ballads, but they don't stay that way for very long. He picks up the tempo until suddenly the quiet, melancholy number is howling and screeching and racing along faster and cleaner than I've ever heard guitar work go.
In many ways, a Vaughan concert is a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. He features many Hendrix numbers, like "Voodoo Child," and he even plays the same kind of guitar and wears the same type of hat. But other influences showed through as he played the entire range from pure blues to raucous rock with numbers such as "Your Little Sister," [sic] "So Fine" [sic] and "Let's Go Shoppin'". [sic]
The man's a musical powerhouse. Too bad his first-rate act took place in a second-rate arena.
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