Johnny Winter’s last dozen years has been rife with health problems, management hassles and missed gigs. So it was a pleasant surprise to see his return to form with a solid set, more homage to his roots than greatest hits. Here his playing was on par with shows from decades past and the fact that Toad’s still smells like a stable only adds to the nostalgia.
At the outset he was helped to a chair where he remained for the duration. With a cowboy hat perched on his head, he was dressed entirely in black, all the better to offset the palest skin this side of a cadaver. Winter opened with fellow Texan Freddie King’s “Hideaway,” ably backed by the Bonesmen, who leave the passing lane free for Johnny to zoom along.
Despite the appearance of frailty, he attacks the guitar with a heavily distorted barrage, though he’s now content to let the songs be the focus. And honorable mention for successfully tackling ‘50s classics like Little Richard’s “Miss Ann” and Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie”. The voice still has enough growl for Ray Charles’ “Blackjack” and plenty of leer for “Sugar Coated Love.” Jimi Hendrix’ “Red House” was also a nice touch, Johnny frequently jammed with him at The Scene and the Record Plant back in 1969 and this blues number fits nicely into his set.
Near the end “It’s All Over Now” gets the place jumping and everyone singing along like fools. For the encore he breaks out that old Firebird on “Mojo Boogie” and Dylan’s “Highway 61”, which gets a necessary detour through Beaumont.