Tab Benoit Gig Review: Salem, Oregon

The show started at 7:30 PM at the beautiful Elsinore theater in downtown Salem, Oregon on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 with Louisiana blues rocker Eric Johanson stepping on stage solo with an electric guitar that he started wailing on as he performed “Diamonds on the Crown” from his February 2019 release with Tiffany Pollack, Blues in My Blood. Before Johanson began the second song Tab Benoit took his place behind the drum kit and Corey Duplechin picked up his Fender electric four string bass guitar. Johanson told the crowd that the trio had just recorded an album together as the trio dove into six of the albums eleven tracks. Johanson sang lead on all the songs with Benoit effortlessly driving the rhythm along with Duplechin providing some bone crushing bass riffs. The final song of their forty-five minute set was the title song of the album “Burn It Down,” deep resonant slide guitar driven bayou sounding drone as the rhythm section kept time, tap, tap, tap, thump, thump, thump. Johanson sang “Try to change my mind, but I can’t find a reason why not to burn it down” as he relentlessly shredded his six string eliciting gut wrenching emanations.

Since the stage setup remained the same for Tab Benoit’s set it only took fifteen minutes for the musicians to rest and regroup. At 8:30, Tab Benoit returned with his Telecaster this time, while Terence Higgins took over the drums, with Corey Duplechin once again on bass. They opened with a Muddy Waters cover, “Why Are People Like That?” The guitar sound was more Chuck Berry than Muddy Waters with a Rockabilly get down feeling. Song number two was “Little Girl Blues” a hard rocking bayou blues song from 2005’s Fever From the Bayou giving Tab the opportunity to demonstrate his prowess on the six string by attacking it like a man possessed. “Too Many Dirty Dishes” was an Albert Collins cover that required another screaming guitar solo on his Fender Telecaster. Then he announced to the audience that he didn’t have a planned set and since he didn’t have a radio hit he was doing other people’s hits and would even take requests, but said that he wouldn’t do “Freebird.” “I wish that I could do hip hop,” Benoit said and added that people could just dance in their seats if they wanted.

“Nothing Takes the Place of You” by Toussaint McCall was a beautiful soaring blues tune that Benoit sang with a passion reminiscent of the late great Otis Redding, “because I’m so blue because nothing takes the place of you.” “Some of ya’ll know me from the past but I may not remember some of those songs. I’m a live artist and not a recording artist,” Benoit explained to the audience.

“I Put a Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the next number that Benoit told the audience that he recorded on his first album, 1992’s Nice and Warm. The deep dark resonating of Benoit’s Telecaster accelerated until it exploded into another raging ear splitting solo. As the extended solo ended Benoit sang with his multi faceted voice “I just can’t stand it, the way you always put me down, I put a spell on you because you’re mine.” The audience responded with positive screams and applause as he brought everything to a crashing conclusion.

Benoit talked with the audience between every song sometimes setting up the story behind the tune while other time he delivered stories like a stand-up comic. For example, he told the story of how he had 8 track tapes as a kid and one of them had a “Boston” album taped over a “Supertramp” 8 Track and this led him to argue that “More Than a Feeling” was a “Supertramp” song because he had the tape to prove it. He explained to the audience that Dr. John got him his first record deal and appeared on his 2005 release Voice of the Wetlands as he began “We Make Good Gumbo” in the key of G. Before it was over Benoit was mimicking drums on his guitar alongside Higgins’s ascending drum rhythm until it all exploded into an all out jam with “Louisiana Style” from 1997’s live album Swampland Jam which ended in some experimental guitar directions that bordered on psychedelic.

The final song of Benoit’s 75 minute set was “Medicine” the title barn burning song from the 2011 album. The band was so tight by this time that it was seamless in the way that the trio interplayed with each other. Higgins passionately pounded out a beat that drove everything along with Duplechin’s crushing bass lines leaving the path for Benoit to take an obvious direction as he soared on guitar. Alternately he would scream “bring me my medicine, bring me my medicine.” Benoit’s fingers scrambled on the fretboard as luscious sounds emanated from his six string. Higgins was completely in control as he drove the beat with Duplechin answering on his resonating bass guitar with his hands dancing on his instrument as if in response to the emotion he sonically created. The song exploded into an all out jam with Benoit’s guitar creating a beautiful appassionato guitar solo to conclude the night’s performance.

The enthusiastic crowd brought the band back out along with Eric Johanson. For an encore. They dove into “Night Train From Nashville” from the 2008 album of the same name. Benoit and Johanson jammed together creating an interplay that lasted for a few minutes before the rhythm section crept in and finally it all came together in a musical gumbo that had the audience dancing in the aisles as the band kicked out the jams. The night ended as a satisfied audience expressed their appreciation for a great show.

Review by Bob Gersztyn

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