Walter Trout has just stopped towards the end of his encore of Rory Gallagher’s “Bullfrog Blues” and he screams as if he’s a Fire And Brimstone Preacher, possessed by something or other: “Can you feel that Birmingham!? Can you feel that!?”
And he’s not wrong. There is something special here, in the air. There always is when Walter Trout plays.
With that he charges into the last verse, he’s out of control. He’s in the moment. He is the blues. When he walks off, a couple of minutes later he must feel it. It is inescapable. Such mastery isn’t commonplace. Yet it is when Walter Trout is here.
Rewind 100 minutes or so, and he’d marched on, with the band, no fanfare, no bombast, and simply played.
You say “simply” not to disparage, but because Trout and his new look band (star keyboard man Richard T Bear, and drummer Jacob Renlov are both in the UK with him for the first time, joining longtime bass player Johnny Griparic) make it look so easy.
“I Can Tell” and a sensational “Walking In The Rain” are a signpost that there’s an electricity around, but then Trout looks the audience square in the eyes and says “I feel like rocking tonight!” he does, too. “Wanna Dance” does that, before he gets quite emotional in “Say Goodbye To The Blues” which he dedicates to B.B King, or “Mr. King”, as he constantly calls him. Indeed, such is his reverence that you wonder if you should call Walter “Mr Trout” as a mark of the same respect. It’s in that one that you realise too, that no WT show is the same. Bear plays a lick on his keyboard and the main man says “I like that!” It seemed spontaneous, unplanned, like it just happened. Genius often does.
Last years “Ride” – album number 30 as he repeats with a certain incredulity – sees its heartfelt title cut (Trout speaks movingly of wanting to escape an unhappy childhood) the brilliant “Ghosts”, the tender “Follow You Back Home” and the anthem for confusion “I’m Worried” (“I made the mistake of turning on the news” he jokes) played back to back, before a jam of glorious proportions.
Support act Alastair Greene – who had been superbly engaging in his set, thrilled to be on the same stage Jimmy Page once graced – was a perfect foil on “We’re All In This Together” and the fun on stage was palpable.
So much so that Trout changes the setlist. Gone is the “quiet number”. In its place, a riotous “Playin’ Hideaway” which was as bombastic as it gets – Andrew Elt, Trout’s longtime cohort, roars his way through it, before “Red Sun”.
And, in his speech before it, Trout, who is just two weeks shy of the ninth anniversary of his liver transplant, speaks of how he considers he’s had nine years of bonus life.
That feeling underscores the whole show. That love, the carefree attitude, the enjoyment.
He’d said earlier, in his tribute to “Mr King” that “when I hear music, it cuts so deep”, but the true skill of Walter Trout, is that he shares it with you. He makes you remember why you love music too.
I’ve been watching Walter Trout for well over 20 years, and honestly, I’ve never seen him better than this. I said that last time, as well which only underlines the fact that, at 72 years old, Walter Trout is finding something with each gig that even he might not have known he had.
He is, quite simply, the best. Whatever he says to the contrary.