I’m sure most of you reading this journal are aware of the great tour Jorma is on. It is dubbed the “Guitar Blues” and it features Jorma along with Ruthie Foster and Robben Ford. The “Guitar Blues” tour started on January 30th at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Ma and will wind up on March 8th in Seattle, Wa. This is a hard working tour as the performers are playing 5 shows a week, with a lot of travel time mixed in. It’s pretty cool………everyone on one bus crossing this great country of ours. There is a good chance that this show will be coming into your area or somewhere close by. I was lucky enough to see the “Guitar Blues” show this past week when the bus stopped in Ohio for a show at the Midland Theatre in Newark. This show was to be the only Ohio stop for the tour. At first I thought why not Columbus or Cleveland or Cincinnati……but after seeing how beautiful the Midland Theatre is……it all made sense.
The Midland Theatre is a very old theatre that has been given a beautiful restoration. It is a great place to see a show and it worked perfectly for the show I had come to see. The room is grand…..high ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, theatre seating, big stage and nice lighting. It also has real nice acoustics. There was a good vibe in the room when eight o’clock hit and the show started. Now, I am an avid reader of Jorma’s diary.…it helps me to keep track of the man…..so I was aware of how well the shows have been going. You can tell from just reading Jorma’s reports how excited and happy he has been with this run.
Ruthie Foster started off the evening’s festivities. I am only familiar with Ruthie through the songs I have heard on NPR and this was my first time seeing her live. Ruthie is a real treat and I really dug her performance. She started off the show playing a national steel guitar and she had a very smooth way of playing that thing. Her voice is also real smooth. Ruthie started the show with a dynamite selection of songs from her new album, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster. She has a great stage presence. Her set ended with a hauntingly beautiful version of Son House’s “Grinnin’ in your face”……it was dramatic. Ruthie then took over as MC and introduced Jorma.
The acoustic perfection of the Midland Theatre really brought out all of the nuances in Jorma’s opening number….”What are they doing in Heaven Tonight”. The audience was a perfect listening group and between the respect the audience showed each performer and the fine sound of the Theatre, it made it possible to hear every word Jorma sang. Two old favorites were next in the set…..”Search My Heart” and “BBQ King”….. You know I’ve heard those songs many, many times, and they have never sounded better then they did that night. I love all configurations that Jorma plays under…..acoustic -electric…… band – solo…..but it is very rare to hear the Young Cap playing solo much these days. That is another cool thing about this particular tour……seeing Jorma sitting up there with his guitar and voice carrying the music through. His guitar playing was impeccable and his singing sure conveyed a lot of feeling. Next up was a new fave from the River of Time CD….”Izze’s Lullaby”….again this song just shined and the quiet of the room allowed the dynamics of the song to ebb and flow. After this gentle instrumental Jorma fired things up with a blistering version of “99 Year Blues”. Another Rev. song….” I am the Light of this World” came next. That song has such a positive content to it and Jorma’s delivery, and again, the theatre’s ambiance gave you the feeling of being in a very holy place. Jorma closed his set with the Roy Book Binder number…..”Full Go Round”. Now if I didn’t know better I’d swear Roy wrote that song just for the Captain……it is a perfect fit for his singing and playing….and what a great song it is. So, at this point Jorma announced the intermission but promised there was more to come and even hinted about a return to the stage for Ruthie and himself.
Robben Ford and his band took the stage after a set break. It is a tight three piece band…..Robben blazing on electric guitar with fine accompaniment by a solid drummer and bass player. He is a fine player…..Jorma mentioned to me after the show that he felt that Robben is one of the greatest guitar players out there working. He sure has great tone and puts alot of feeling into his playing. Robben’s set really allowed him to show the finer points of improvisation and he really JAMMED. At the end of his set he brought Jorma back to the stage and this time Jorma had his electric guitar in hand. “Rock me Baby” and “Wish you Would” were played with Robben and his fine band holding down the beat. There was a lot of great guitar soloing between Jorma and Robben ……pretty darn exciting from my view.
The show finished up with Ruthie, Robben and Jorma joining in on two Dylan classics…..”Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Don’t Think Twice”. I had seen these songs listed in the set lists, but what I didn’t know is that Jorma, Robben and Ruthie were all sharing the vocals. It was very cool to hear them each take a turn as another verse rolled around. As the “Guitar Blues” came to an end……there all three performers were center stage sharing in the appreciation the audience was pouring forth. It was a beautiful show and the chemistry between each of the three performers alone and together really made it a very special night. As we left the Midland Theatre and headed out into the cold Ohio winter night there was a feeling of fullness that brought a warmth to the soul.