The Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN
Players: Tab Benoit, vocals, guitar; Terence Higgins, drums; Corey Duplechin, bass
Material: Tab Benoit, (pronounced, BEN-WAH) is not a rock star. I’m not sure he really wants to be one. He’s a bluesman. Benoit uses no pedals, and only the one Fender Telecaster Thinline guitar. This is an artist whose playing speaks to you as much as the lyrics do.
He opened his performance with two rockers, “Why Are People Like That? and “Whole Lotta Soul,” from the albums Brother To The Blues and Medicine. “Nothing Takes The Place Of You,” a ballad, also from Medicine, was riveting, and “Standing On The Banks” may have featured his best guitar solo of the night. “The Blues Is Here To Stay,” tells us why this artist loves the blues. Without the blues, the song says, There'd be no Elvis, no Jerry Lee / A young Eric Clapton would have never crossed the sea.
For the classic, “I Put A Spell On You,” Benoit invited opener Samantha Fish to join him, and they traded vocals and lead guitar solos. The two teamed up again for the rocking encore, “Night Train.” This time, the drummer and bassist also took solos along with Tab and Samantha.
Musicianship: Terence Higgins did a lot more than just keep the beat. His drumming complements every song with just the right flourishes in just the right places. When given space to do so, Corey Duplechin’s bass playing came out of the shadows and soared with slaps, pulls and speed that rival anyone’s. But Duplechin is a true musician who knows when to stand out and when not to.
Performance: This was a no-frills show. There were no elaborate stage sets, no strobe lights. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes theatrics can actually upstage the music. Then again, sometimes a little theatrical entertainment can help. I think it might have here.
Samantha Fish opened the show in a shiny jacket and skin-tight leather. Every hair in place. She switched guitars often and relied heavily on effects pedals. Perhaps too heavily. She was clearly distracted trying to adjust her pedals on one song.
What Tab lacked in theatrics he made up for with a warm and disarming stage presence and heartfelt playing. Sometimes angry, sad or even funny. But always the blues.
Summary: If you like the blues, you’re gonna like Tab Benoit. This was the artist’s first live show in over eight months. The same was probably true for the audience, and both were clearly thrilled to be there.
– John Mollenhauer