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Jonny Lang lacks fire at Tulalip

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Jonny Lang
July 16
Tulalip Amphitheatre


It's not that Jonny Lang wasn't good last week when he performed at the Tulalip Amphitheatre, it's just that he's capable of being better - much better.

The 28-year-old blues-rock artist hopped on stage at the outdoor venue, adjacent to the Tulalip Casino Resort, and opened with "One Person at a Time" from his most recent effort, 2006's Turn Around.

Still looking young and fresh in ripped jeans and a plaid shirt, Lang waltzed through a pair of songs from the aforementioned album, "Bump in the Road" and the title track. Supported by four instrumentalists and a backup vocalist, there was a considerable amount of sound coming from the small stage, yet early on, the concert lacked the intensity of previous shows at the Paramount Theatre and Seattle Pier given by this explosive performer.

Part of the reason for Lang's less than stellar performance may have been the 8 p.m. set time. It began as the sun continued to beam over the tall pine trees that surround the amphitheatre, a time when many headlining artists barely arrive at their dressing rooms. The performance was also hampered by the lack of enthusiasm from the audience - perhaps due to the early set time, but possibly due to the overly aggressive security team, who sat people down in their seats almost immediately when they stood up to take photos. One female security guard in particular marched up and down the aisles as if she'd been commanded to watch over the Pope. Compared to similar live shows, there was simply too much security running around, distractedly I might add, and interrupting fans from truly enjoying the experience.

Lang switched guitars for a surprisingly twangy, slow version of "Red Light," sounding more like a ballad than the mid-tempo original - it's a great song, but it simply lost its mojo and carried on for nearly nine minutes. Another disappointment was a lazy run-through of "Lie to Me," the Grammy winner's signature hit, which was reduced to an acoustic rendition instead of the usual funky, snappy, rock-blues number done by a full band.

"A Quitter Never Wins" and "Thankful" were both superb, however, on this night. But it was a dazzling re-do of Stevie Wonder's "Living in the City," a song Lang has included on his set list for years, that finally got the audience to its feet - they wouldn't sit down for the remainder of the show. Throughout this 2,300-capacity portable theater, folks were now dancing, lifting their hands in the air, and cheering more loudly - it was like a completely different concert.

Lang finished his 90-minute appearance with an encore presentation of "I Am," letting each band member flex his skills on a four- to five-minute solo. The front of the stage was now crammed with swaying and hollering fans. Lang, who attracted the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones as a teenager with his sharp guitar work, exited the concert with some blistering chord play and his classic wide smile.

The second half of this concert was vintage Jonny Lang, and it partially redeemed the flatness delivered in the first portion. At one point, the North Dakota native was upstaged by his own backup singer - this should never happen to any entertainer. Lang was rumored to be under the weather, and if such was the case it certainly explained why he brought his C game to the Marysville casino.

Upcoming concerts at Tulalip Amphitheatre include Al Green, The Beach Boys, and famed Lesbian musician Melissa Etheridge. Tickets may remain for Etheridge's performance, but concert packages are sold out for the night - you can, however, still purchase tickets and hotel room a la carte. For a full schedule, visit www.tulalipresort.com.

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