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Winter chews through the blues with abandon
Nick Krewen - The Spectator (Hamilton), Nov. 1989

A hot Winter was cooled off a little early last night.

Legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter was forced to cut his set short by a song after tempers flared at Dallas on Barton Street East where he played to a sold-out crowd of 750.

The 45-year-old Texan wasn't hurt or endangered in any of the three scuffles that occurred during his encore, but his road manager played it safe and had Winter escorted back to his tour bus, protected by a bevy of bodyguards, after he finished his second number of a three song run.

The situation was quickly brought under control by Dallas staff, but when you think about it, the blues is the most selfishly indulgent type of music around—a genre where the musician calls his own shots; a music that incites passion.

The blues is an art form that one doesn't perform as much as own. It's that personal stamp that fosters reputations, and Winter's two-decade status as one of the hottest American guitarists was proven in a combustible tally of firebrand licks and steamy grit.

For a little over an hour Winter and sidemen Jon Paris on bass and harp and Tom Compton on drums cooked up a storm, with fast, furious blues licks and the thundering roar of Winter’s harsh vocals. After initially heating things up with a jam, the show really clicked when Winter launched into Boney Maronie, an old standard he's played since the early ‘70s.

Winter reached even further back into the vaults for Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, but built up the solo to a point where it stood on its own as an almost different song.

The differences between Winter and his opening act, local blues unit Guitar Mikey And The Real Thing, were almost as dramatic In fact, Mikey was downright polite about the whole thing, and although he was technically perfect and proved him-self to be an above-average instrumentalist, his hour-long set was a little too clean and pure. But he is a fine guitarist, and his venturing into the crowd for an elongated solo was a welcome diversion from the routine of watching an artist stand frozen behind a microphone all night long.

Guitar Mikey should also be commended for his dynamic range of louds and softs that highlighted his sensitivity. It was the only thing lacking in Winter’s otherwise perfect set.

Yes indeed, Johnny Winter is still alive and will, thank you very much.

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