Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: Jimmy Herring Band, 5/2/09, Visualite Theater, Charlotte, NC

Jimmy Herring, the best part of Widespread Panic (one of my favorites bands), performed a relaxed and proficient show with his eponymous band at the Visualite Theater on May 2. Though the Jimmy Herring Band isn't quite as rocking as WSP, they're sure to challenge any Spreadneck to stretch their musical boundaries for the better.

Panic, a bluesy Southern rock jam band, is an acquired taste that I urge you not to judge; their fratty sound is given depth and pathos by Herring's metal-influenced finger acrobatics. But the Jimmy Herring Band involves none of the above adjectives, instead choosing to go in a rock-jazz direction with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge, keyboardist/vocalist Scott Kinsey, saxophonist Greg Osby, drummer Jeff Zipe (of Herring's other project, Jazz is Dead and Aquarium Rescue Unit), and guest flutist Kofi Burbridge (Oteil's brother). Thought the performance wasn't as compelling as a good Panic show, it was a buoyant show that had a lot to offer in multi layered collaboration between talented musicians.

The Visualite Theater is a small bar/venue in downtown Charlotte that's a major change of venue from the amphitheaters where I'm used to seeing Herring. Tapers, including Charles Fox and Z-Man, the major WSP tapers, took up a good portion of the landing directly in front of the stage. JHB went on very early, at about 9:15 - early because their website and the venue claimed a showtime of 9:30, sending my taper companion into a frenzy as he hit "record" literally seconds before the music began.

The relaxed and unhurried show began with "What If", taking a leisurely stroll around Herring's talents, and ended with Dawn, a sometimes exciting but overall uneven piece which highlighted keyboardist Kinsey's talents. The addition of Kofi Burbridge of the Derek Trucks Band was a mid-show highlight, with the minor-key "New Moon" and comparatively up-tempo "Only When it's Light". The peak came with Scapegoat Blues - the only song I really danced to. Herring and Oteil Burbridge were a delight to see up close, as they alternated intense musical challenges to one another with huge smiles. The entire show had, as they say, "good vibes".

Beyond Herring's acrobatics, Kinsey, Burbridge, and Osby also impressed with their technical proficiency and creativity. Thought the show was short (clocking in well under two hours) and nowhere near as rocking as Panic, JHB made for a musical palate cleanser that will interest any music fan.

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