Broadening my musical horizons and stretching my comfort zone was a personal goal of mine for 2022, and that journey began Tuesday night at Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. On tour celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of his sophomore album Trouble Is, Shepherd was supported by the Ally Venable Band.
Built in 1966, Center Stage is one of the best live performance venues around Atlanta, offering a large stage with great acoustics to its intimate 1,000-capacity auditorium crowd. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
While the majority of the events I typically attend are 80s hard rock shows, I do respect and appreciate blues-rock, which is why I was really looking forward to seeing both Venable and Shepherd on Tuesday. For being just 22-years-old, Venable is already an accomplished artist, receiving the 2015 East Texas Guitarist of the Year Music Award and 2018 Entertainer of the Year. Her band, rounded out by Braeden Stubbs on bass and Isaac Pulido on drums, took the stage at 7:30pm and delivered a powerful set of soulful originals and covers, much to the delight of the crowd who kept shouting “get it, girl” to the smiling Venable.
Venable’s set included a cover of “Use Me” by the late Bill Withers, a few of her originals from her 2021 album “Heart of Fire,” and a jaw-dropping performance of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny.” Venable’s poise and personality come out in her playing, and her guitar talent was on full display Tuesday night. Having already worked with the likes of Shepherd and Devon Allman, it is clear Venable has a bright future ahead in bringing blues-rock to a younger generation.
Ally Venable Band
Ally Venable – Guitar/Vocals
Braeden Stubbs – Bass
Isaac Pulido – Drums
As the lights dimmed promptly at 8:45pm, the capacity crowd announced their excitement for Shepherd and his band finally delivering upon this show in Atlanta, as it had been rescheduled twice dating back to April 2020. The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band launched into the night with the instrumental piece “Trouble Is,” the last song on their 1997 album of the same name.
I will readily admit that my familiarity with Shepherd starts and stops with the hit “Blue on Black,” but I can honestly say I was blown away by his performance throughout the night. Shepherd plays the guitar with a mean purpose, and must leave the stage exhausted every night, clearly giving the fans 110% of himself.
Backed by a seven-piece band that includes Noah Hunt’s bluesy-rock vocals, the ensemble includes keyboards, a trumpet, and a saxophone, which collectively just gives the band a rich and emotional sound for songs like “King’s Highway,” “Heat of the Sun,” and “Shame, Shame, Shame,” my personal favorite of the night.
After closing the set with a cover of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee,” and similar to the show my fellow contributor Mark Horan recently covered in Orlando, the band returned for a three-song encore. First up was the ever-popular ballad “Blue On Black,” with Shepherd playing a blue (pickguard) on black guitar while the crowd sung along. This was followed by Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” and as was apparently expected, the band ended the evening with its typical closer, an amazing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”
As the band took their final bows for the night, Shepherd reminded the crowd to come back again Wednesday night for his second show, promising to reward them with a different setlist before he heads back to his home town of Shreveport, Louisiana on Saturday.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Guitar/Vocals
Noah Hunt – Vocals/Guitar
Chris Layton – Drums
Joe Krown – Keyboards
Kevin McCormick – Bass
Mark Pender – Trumpet
Joe Sublett – Saxophone
1.) Trouble is …
2.) Woman Like You
3.) King’s Highway
4.) True Lies
5.) Heat of the Sun
6.) Everything is Broken (Bob Dylan cover)
7.) Somehow, Somewhere, Someway
8.) Shame, Shame, Shame
9.) Turn to Stone (Joe Walsh cover)
10.) King Bee (Slim Harpo cover)
11.) Blue on Black
12.) Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
13.) Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix cover)
Follow Ally Venable Online
Follow Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band Online
Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in the Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early 90s, selling Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and purchasing a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.