Vaughan brought blues to Warren

Jimmie Vaughan is a pro’s pro.

During his concert Saturday at the Robins Theatre, Vaughan showed why he’s revered by blues fans, and why his famous younger brother — Stevie Ray Vaughan — often called him the better guitar player.

Playing more than 25 songs in just under two hours, Vaughan and his talented six-piece band ripped through roadhouse rave ups like “You Can’t Sit Down,” slinky and seductive numbers like “Baby, Scratch My Back” and slow, sad songs like “Raining in My Heart.”

The interplay between Vaughan’s guitar and Mike Flanigan’s B3 organ was a treat throughout the night. Vaughan played a couple of songs he recorded with his brother, “D/FW” and “White Boots,” and he also played a beautiful version of Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood,” which is best known as the title track of Stevie Ray’s debut album.

At 70 years old, Vaughan remains a remarkably expressive guitar player.

I once faced the wrath of the “Clapton is God” contingent when I wrote that Eric Clapton wasn’t even the best guitar player at Cleveland’s Gund Arena in 1994 when he had Vaughan opening for him.

I still feel that way. Clapton is a master technician who leaves me cold. Vaughan is a guitar player who makes me feel every note he bends and the emotion behind it.

He can throw in a few theatrics when he wants to, like playing his Fender guitar behind his head on “The Crawl,” a song he recorded with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. But most of the time, he plays in service to the song.

That ability made Vaughan and Kim Wilson the perfect team in the Thunderbirds. Wilson had the voice and the panache to keep the crowd engaged while Vaughan played with an authenticity that is unrivaled.

As good as Saturday’s show was, it could have used a Kim Wilson. Vaughan has a perfectly acceptable voice, but it’s not as expressive as his fingers. He’s a master instrumentalist who’s less commanding as a frontman.

Then again, the energy might have been greater if the Robins was more than a third full for the show.

It probably was too large of a venue. Cleveland is a much larger market, but Vaughan played the Music Box Supper Club in that city, which is less than half the size of the Robins. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in western Pennsylvania, where Vaughan played Oct. 14, also has half the capacity of the Warren theater.

Two shows an hour away northwest and southeast also didn’t help.

The blues audience might not be huge, but it’s devoted. Fans will travel to see their favorites. If Warren had been Vaughan’s only area date, he probably would have drawn more folks from greater Cleveland or western Pennsylvania. Instead, they might have lost some concertgoers in southern Mahoning and Columbiana counties, who live about the same distance from the Robins as they do Jergel’s.

I fear the same thing may happen Friday when another blues act — Samantha Fish — plays the Robins on Friday, Lorain Palace on Saturday, Kent Stage on Sunday and Jergel’s on Tuesday.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.


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