Concert Review: Jonny Lang, The Canyon, April 8th, 2018

Concert review, Jonny Lang, The Canyon, Martine Ehrenclou, Rock and Blues Muse

Photo: Martine Ehrenclou

By Martine Ehrenclou

To listen to Jonny Lang’s music is one thing. To see him perform live is something else altogether. Jonny Lang came alive on stage at The Canyon in Santa Clarita, CA, on Sunday April 8th. It’s a show I won’t soon forget.

The club was jammed. His fans knew what they’d come for. I suspect I was one of the few who’d never seen him live as the pre-show conversation with those around us focused on a previous Jonny Lang concert only two months before. From blistering rock, to blues, gospel, and jazz, Lang’s music has groove, and it’s fun. It makes you want to move. Except for, of course, the blues scorchers and ballads that bring you to tears. The takeaway is outstanding musicianship and a virtuoso guitarist with plenty of soul.

Lang appeared on stage in a t-shirt and jeans, as if this were just another night. He greeted everyone in the room; the boy next door, friendly and humble, perhaps a bit shy at first, until he picked up his Gibson Les Paul guitar. When he started to play and sing, this ferocious, soulful voice emerged along with virtuoso guitar chops. All you could do was fall back against your chair, mouth open in disbelief. It’s the juxtaposition of the fresh-faced, unassuming guy and the musical beast he transformed into, that at first, was so stunning.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist bring it like Jonny Lang. With every single song, he immersed himself into the music, a deep dive with each note. Vulnerable and formidable at the same time, he has a powerful stage presence. Perhaps that stems from a certain authenticity or maybe it’s just about giving himself over to the music in a way that few can.

Lang and his equally exceptional band, opened the show with “Freight Train,” a funky rocker with plenty of groove, from his album, Turn Around. The perfect tune to energize a room of devoted fans, and all eyes were on him.

With stripped down, soulful vocals not unlike a contemporary Joe Cocker, Lang launched into the title track on his album, Signs. It’s a dark, blues-rock number with meaningful lyrics about the state of the world, and a heavy, foot-stomping beat. The dirty guitar riffs cut to the core. Lang’s guitar solo, dissonant in places and in service to the meaning of this original tune, delivered a powerful whack.

Let me first mention Lang’s drummer—Barry Alexander killed it on this tune and on the others. Considering the rhythm of Lang’s music, he’d have to be some kind of drummer. And he is. This guy is superb, as were the other members of the band—Jim Anton on bass, Tyrus Sass on keys, and Zane Carney on guitar, who opened as a solo act for Lang with some impressive guitar playing and jazz/indie vocals.

Slowing things down a bit, perhaps to give us a breather after the first two power-punch numbers, Jonny Lang opened an emotional vein on the blues scorcher, “Quitter Never Wins,” originally by Tinsley Ellis. This tune could break your heart, especially the way Lang sings it. His guitar solo, played on his Telecaster Thinline, was in a word, extraordinary.

If there ever were a sales pitch for the joy and power of music, Jonny Lang is it. Especially when he plays guitar, his body writhes, twists and sways. It’s inspiring to witness a musician like this, one who doesn’t appear to resist any emotion a song calls for. He gives in, gives himself over to it, and that kind of authenticity is an infectious quality for an artist, one you don’t find very often, especially in combination with other-worldly talent on guitar.

After “Snakes,” another intense, rocking tune from the Signs album, the mood lightened with the Quincy Jones jazz tune, “Rack ‘Em Up.” Lang’s vocals simmered a bit on this tune and the beauty of his tone was controlled and clear. He gave room to his bass player to play a punchy solo before the keyboard player brought us all into the rhythm with a fun and stellar run on the Hammond B3. All smiles, Jonny Lang jammed with the band on this tune, right down to his vocal scatting while playing guitar.

The audience went wild, now on their feet in praise of Lang’s outstanding talent. With a broad smile, Jonny said to us, “We love sharing our music with people and we’re glad we get to share it with you guys tonight.”

“Red Light,” another heartbreaker about hitting the skids, kicked off with Lang soloing on his Tele. Before long, he launched into a gospel-esque refrain, complete with organ in the background. Lang’s vocals shined brightly on this one, a beacon for anyone who’d ever doubted they’d make it through the day. Beckoning the audience to join in on the chorus, we sang, “Everything is going to be alright.”

“Living for the City,” another highlight of the evening, rocked the house with a wonderful rendition of the Stevie Wonder song. Great rhythm with great musicians to pull it off. Lang’s guitar solo dazzled us all.

By now, everyone was out of their seats, fully committed to the ride. Lang played a call and answer on guitar with the keyboard player, adding to the fun of the evening. Truly a conversation between musical instruments. Call it innovation, ingenuity, musical genius—it all applies.

The crowd went crazy. As if they couldn’t get more involved in the performance, they whooped and hollered. When the song came to a close, Lang stepped to the mic, quietly shaking his head, and said, “You guys are just great. Thank you.”

After “Still Rainin’,” a thundering rock ballad from Lang’s Wander This World album, they closed the set with “Bring Me Back Home,” one of the most moving love songs I’ve heard.

As if to bring us back to the beginning of Jonny Lang’s career at age 15, he and the band performed “Lie To Me” for the encore. The album went platinum in 1997 before his record, Wander This World earned him a Grammy nomination. With three Grammy nominations and one Grammy Award win, Jonny Lang has toured with the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, BB King, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Sting and more. He appears regularly as part of the Experience Hendrix tour.

I welcome your comments! Please comment below.

For more information on Jonny Lang:






By |2018-04-13T07:33:47+00:00April 12th, 2018|Concert Reviews|38 Comments


  1. Linda Durkin April 12, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Awesome review. I’ve been a Lang devotee for so long that I was surprised to see her was only 36.
    He puts it all out there and does it so well.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you. He really does. I’m a convert now. Will see him again. Soon I hope too! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Tracey Sanford April 13, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I saw him a few years ago in Melbourne Florida. He’s amazing, I hope he returns soon!
    Might be the best show ever and I’ve been to many!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      I have to agree with you. Might be the best show ever! I hope you get to see him again soon. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Michelle Johnson April 13, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I have seen Jonny a dozen times over the last 20 years and he never disappoints. So glad you were able to experience him and describe it so perfectly and eloquently to share with your readers. Every time I see him, I come away with something different…but always blown away and more of a fan than ever. Thank you for such a wonderful review!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      Wow, a dozen times. Well, I’m ready for the next Jonny Lang show, I can’t tell you that. Thank you for your kind words about my review.
      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Sam April 13, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

    All of this is exactly what goes on in my head when I think of Jonny Lang put into words. Freaking amazing music! Fantastic review!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed my review. His music is amazing. Totally agree. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Gilles Genete April 13, 2018 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Thanks for this extensive and intense review. I saw Jonny in Paris,France last December: he blew out the theater.
    I ve been a loyal fan of Rory Gallagher from 1974 : Rory gave everything he could to the audiences, and Jonny goes the same road.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome.
      I can imagine that Jonny blew out the theater. Nice place to see him live. Thanks for the info on Rory Gallagher. Wish I could have seen him live. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Cliff Stepp April 13, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Great review. I walked through a crowd at a Johnny Lang show about 8 years ago. Almost everyone was standing. Almost everyone had tears in their eyes. don’t remember what song Johnny was playing at that moment, but …… wow.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed my review. Wow is right–you described the show you saw perfectly. Lang is so moving the way he sings and plays. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Deb Eisele April 13, 2018 at 11:26 am - Reply

    I’ve been a Jonny Lang fan since he was only 15. Watching him grow musically has been inspirational. He is no longer a kid but an established musician, husband and father! God bless you Jonny Lang. My husband, myself and my two daughters have seen you several times and will always be in attendance whenever you are in our area!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your lovely comment.

  8. James ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Great review! Having been there with you , I have to say Jonny Lang was one of the best performers I have ever seen. Truly a great talent!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed him so much! I knew you would!

  9. Ryan April 13, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Nice review! I totally concur. Lang is the real deal. Saw him two nights ago in Salem. One of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you. Glad you enjoyed my review. You said it exactly–he’s the real deal. That’s awesome you saw him two nights ago in Salem. I’m ready to see him again and I bet you are too. Thanks for your comment.

  10. John April 13, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    I have seen him play about 7 times now and I have always been amazed at his talent and how humble he is! Great review, Thanks!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      7 times! Wow. Well I can understand why now that I’ve seen him live. I’m amazed at his talent too. Humble guy for sure. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Terrii Esiline April 13, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Jonny melts our hearts❤️

  12. Danny Fernatt April 13, 2018 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Hey Martine I told you he was good. When he get’s in that trance , it’s like he is one with his guitar

  13. Hilary April 13, 2018 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Wonderful review! Jonny sure is something too see! His talent is like no other!
    When he plays?! You can see he transforms too another place! That is out of this world! He enjoys himself and makes you feel like he’s only playing for you!! You were completely accurate! To hear and enjoy his music is amazing! But too see him live is such an amazing beautiful emotional experience!! Thank You Jonny for always sharing your pure and honest heartfelt joy of music with us all!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes Jonny is something to see and he’s like no other. Absolutely right. To see him live is an amazing experience as you said. My husband and I will be be going to see him again and again.

  14. Joan April 13, 2018 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    I’m 76 yrs young and I love Jonny Lang! I saw him as a 15 yr old wonder in our little town in Minnesota playing our local summertime festival….He’s phenomenal! This past winter in Pensacola,FL he wowed us, sounding better than ever!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Fantastic! Thanks for sharing your experience seeing Jonny Lang. He is in fact phenomenal!

  15. Kristi April 13, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    This review really described the (Church of Jonny) experience. My sister coined the pharse after we went to a few shows. Jonny preforms his music with such passion it must be experienced to truly appreciate it. My favorite venue to see him is at The Birchmere in VA. This artist deserves so much more aclaim and praise than he receives. I love to see these great reviews.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you. “Church of Jonny” is right! Agree with everything you wrote, including that he deserves much more acclaim and praise. Thanks for your nice comment.

  16. Tony April 13, 2018 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Great description of a Jonny Lang performance. I first saw him when he was 16 or 17 in Portland Maine and have been hooked ever since. Saw him in Portland a few months ago with my wife. It was her first time seeing him and it brought a face and energy to the music she had heard me listen to for years. She too was captivated. Thanks for sharing your review. For a real treat check out Jonny Lang and the Big Bang from 1995. The Track ‘Nice and Warm’ is my favorite. At 14 years old that voice and guitar were already amazing.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you. Same thing happened for my husband–he’d been listening to Lang’s music that I’d been playing but when seeing Lang live, he was captivated too. I will check out Jonny Lang and the Big Bang. Thanks for the tip. 14 yrs old–amazing.

  17. Robert. M April 14, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    I saw him first on a DVD of one of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads concerts, performing “Give me up again”. I was blown away by his guitar playing, his voice, his style of singing, but most about how he transferred the emotions of that song. Looked like he was in tears as he finished that song. Then, I finally saw him life in Berlin last November. I was standing in the second row in front of the stage. Seeing him so close was amazing. He really gave everything he had and started sweating after the second song. He is one of the best guitar players around and his voice is so versatile.Jonny really opens his heart when he’s is delivering his songs. The way he sings and plays let you feel what he feels. I’ve seen great bands and musicians but none of them conveyed emotions like Jonny does.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Wow, second row. I bet that was amazing. Agreed, he is one of the best guitar players around. I love his voice too. Thanks for your comment.

  18. Linda April 14, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Every since I heard his first CD, I have been a fan. I’ve seen Jonny five times now.. whenever he is close to St Louis I go to see him. Love the way he comes out in a T-shirt and sneakers and looks so young … then you see how he transforms when he starts playing … amazing !
    Great talent!!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Jony Lang does transform and he’s amazing. Agreed, great talent. Thanks for your comment.

  19. Jon Sexauer April 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Martine: What a great play by play of what was obviously a fun night of great music. You don’t have to sell me on how good he is and how good he is live, but with this review you paint the picture so well you could get just about anyone to want to go see him live. Thank you for your review and candor.


    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed my review. Thanks for commenting.

  20. Bill Ward April 16, 2018 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    I first heard Jonny on TV but I was in another room. Didn’t know who he was at the time but with that rough, gravelly voice I was sure this guy was in his 60’s or older. When I got in front of the TV I was astounded! He was 15 or 16 but looked like he was 12 and sounded like an old blues guy. I immediately fell in love with him. Bought Wander this World first – not one mediocre song on the album and then later got Lie To Me, also a great album. I’ve seen him live twice and every time one word comes to mind – possessed. Not in a bad or evil way, it’s like the music has taken over his body and soul and drives what he does. He’s simply amazing to me. Wish he would come to Southern Oregon soon, I need a Jonny Lang fix.

    • Martine Ehrenclou April 16, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your great story. That’s a testament to Jonny Lang if I ever heard one. I said the same thing–that he has an old blues guy soul. You’re so right–it’s like his music has taken over. He is amazing. I hope he comes to Southern Oregon so you can see him live again!

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