He’s not Kid Jonny Lang anymore, but he still knows how to pack a big bang.
Lang started his recording career at the age of 14, and made his major label debut on A&M Records at 15. Now a 32-year old bluesman with nearly 20 years experience, Lang brought his big bang to the warm and cozy confines of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois. Nestled in the shadows of Chicago, the home of the blues, the Arcada Theatre seats about 900 fans. President and CEO of the Arcada, Ron Onesti, took the theater from the wrecking ball and made it one of the Midwest’s best concert venues. The architectural beauty of the venue is only surpassed by the beauty of its acoustics, and the sound for Jonny Lang’s brand of blues was stellar.
Lang and his band casually walked out onto a softly lit stage and strapped in for the ride. As the lights started to rise, so did the strains of “Don’t Stop (For Anything),” one of Lang’s heaviest, most intense tunes. Watching the young singer/guitarist writhe with every funky note of the song made me shake my head in disbelief. Much like watching a guy like Joe Cocker, you not only hear Lang, but you “feel” him. When he sings these songs and bleeds his guitar for notes, it almost feels like someone is squeezing your arm. That squeeze is accompanied by a little shake a good portion of the time, too. Watching him pour his heart into each note is really something to behold.
As the show progresses, Lang seems to get molded into his instrument. It’s almost as if they are both plugged into the same electric current. At a couple of points within the set he starts to sing each note he plays. the effect is almost like that of a talk box, but Lang does it without the aid of any effects. He strikes a low note and matches it perfectly with his voice. He squeezes out the highest of high notes, and his voice goes to that plateau as well. This is where you really see , hear, and feel his connection with his guitar. It’s really a pretty chilling thing to experience.
Lang isn’t the only talent on the stage, though. He brings a talented band with him, and he’s not afraid to let them take the reins. Giving each of them ample time to show off their skills, the audience gets treated to top notch keyboard solos, bass solos, drum solos, and even more guitar work.
The band ran through some of the biggest fan favorites like “Rack ‘Em Up,” “A Quitter Never Wins,” “Red Light,” and the cover of the Stevie Wonder classic, “Living For The City.” But I thought the set really took flight when Lang connected with the Muddy Waters classic, “40 Days & 40 Nights.” Even though his most recent material might stray a little farther from the blues, his blues prowess takes center stage during this song. Another huge highlight of the show is when Lang gently picks and strums an acoustic guitar all alone on the stage in preparation of the big “Lie To Me” finale. He does a poignant acoustic blues version of the song with a high end, Prince-like vocal, until his band comes back onto the stage and all hell breaks loose. The build up to the electrified “Lie To Me” is monstrous and moving. It was a perfect way to end the show. Jonny Lang takes a journey through his career, which has occupied almost every year of his young life, and winds up back where he started - as the blues, rock, and soul voice of the future.