”LEGENDS OF BLUES” A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf featuring HENRY GRAY & EDDIE SHAW
The legend of the Wolf lives on!
Late Sunday afternoon at Fuji Rock, the Field of Heaven stage hosted “Legends of Blues” A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf featuring Henry Gray & Eddie Shaw. This was the second year in a row for a legends set at Fuji Rock, with last year featuring “Soul Music Legends”. The legends set last year was one of my favorites from the entire fest, so I was eager to see if this year’s Legends set could live up to it.
The Legends of Blues set was billed as a tribute to the late great Howlin’ Wolf and featured two long time members of his band in Henry Gray on Piano and Eddie Shaw on Tenor Sax. The rest of this legends band consisted of long time jazz/blues drummer Derrick Martin, Chicago blues man Felton Crews on bass and virtuoso Japanese blues guitarist Shun Kikuta. This is a band that has no weak links and in total surely has hundreds of years of blues experience.
Their roughly hour long set featured Eddie Shaw on vocal duties for the first half, then pianist Henry Gray taking over for the second half. Their set was comprised of almost entirely old Howlin’ Wolf classics. The two did the Wolf well, they sounded great on the mic despite Shaw being in his late 70s and Gray turning 90 this year.
Shaw in particular had a great presence, as his raspy booming voice whipped the crowd into a frenzy performing classic Wolf hits such as “The Red Rooster” or “Shake for Me”. The rest of the band played their roles to perfection too. Martin on drums is insanely skilled and always the showman whether flipping his drumsticks in the air mid session or by jumping out of his chair at the end of nearly every tune. Crews on bass was solid as usual, not overall flashy but keeping the blues riffs going with ease and giving us a furious solo when he was given the chance. There’s a reason he’s played with so many of the blues greats over the years. Rounding out the band was Shun Kikuta, one Japan’s top blues guitarists. He seemed a bit constrained as it must have been one of his first times to play with these legends. However when Shaw or Gray gave Kikuta the nod to do his thing, he exploded into furious blues riffs that had the crowd left in awe.
As Gray took the mic duties in the second half, the 90 year old blues man worked through classics like “Pride and Joy” and “Boogie Woogie Blues” with the ferocity of a man half his age. There was just something so polished and natural about hearing both Gray and Shaw on the mic, sharing and keeping the tradition going that was clearly in their veins for their whole lives. The set ended with the more dominating Eddie Shaw getting back on the mic. He thanked the crowd for being there, urged us to keep the memory of the Wolf alive and keep the spirit of classic blues going.
These “Legends” sets, the past couple years at Fuji Rock, really have been special in getting to showcase true living legends in genres of music that don’t get as much love as something like classic rock. I’m already curious about next year, if they’ll keep this tradition going and what genre they’ll choose to showcase next.
Photo by Yusuke Kitamura Text by James Mallion
Posted on 2015.7.26 20:35