Gig Review: Tab Benoit, Hermosa Beach, CA

Gig Review, Tab Benoit, Martine Ehrenclou, Rock and Blues Muse

Photo: Martine Ehrenclou

By Martine Ehrenclou

“Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Review” featured the beloved Cajun Bluesman, and two of his protégés, Eric Johanson and Jeff McCarty, at Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, CA, October 26, 2018.

With a capacity of 280, I considered myself lucky to see blues guitarist, singer-songwriter, Tab Benoit, in such an intimate setting. We’d reserved a table so we could see the stage. Little did I know that 2/3 of the venue was standing room only. Envision a mosh pit but reversed in size with tables lining the back walls behind the standing area leading up to the stage. I didn’t know how this was going to turn out. The venue was new to me.

Guitarist, singer-songwriter, Eric Johanson kicked off the evening with tunes from his latest album, Burn It Down, recorded on Whiskey Bayou Records. With the rhythm master himself, Tab Benoit on drums and Corey Duplechin on bass, Johanson performed his brand of blues-rock and roots music, a fresh and contemporary spin with dark, brooding overtones. He is a stellar guitar player, with a dark, dirty sound, often with distortion that reminded me a bit of Gary Clark Jr.

By this time, I’d realized that standing at the stage in the mosh pit of sorts, was the only way to go for a good listening experience and to see the band up close. Crouched by the side of the stage, I was grateful to have the option of being steps away from the performing musicians and I understood then that this was part of the appeal of Saint Rocke. If you arrive early enough, you can in fact get so close to the artists that you can easily merge with the performance.

Which I did. Being that close was thrilling.

Next up was the second Benoit protégé, Jeff McCarty, and who also recorded his album on Whiskey Bayou Records. What a voice. A total surprise as I’d never heard of him before. Talk about pipes and soul. This guy threw himself into each tune, understanding how to connect with the audience and deliver a great performance. With Benoit again on drums, McCarty interacted with the crowd, feeding off their excitement, performing tunes from his album, Step Out. McCarty’s sound has an R&B/rock vibe with great rhythm. This singer has it going on, a Southern Rock/soul singer whose sweat and grit had carried him from Louisiana and into the hands of Tab Benoit, and to share stages with George Jones, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and more.

The band took a break and it wasn’t until then did I notice the TVs lining the walls of the venue and how the audience now had their eyes glued to the baseball game. Which I understood, because after all, the hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were playing in the World Series playoffs. I checked in on my husband and friends who I’d abandoned for the mosh pit and found myself in an entirely different world with the crowd thrusting their hands in the air and yelling when the Dodgers hit a home run.

When Tab Benoit appeared on stage with his trademark Telecaster Thinline guitar, jeans, and colorful shirt, all eyes turned back to him. I’d waited several years to see Tab Benoit live and I wasn’t going to miss a thing so I maneuvered myself back through the tight crowd of people to my spot by the side of the stage. Members of the blues trio took their places on stage, this time with Tab Benoit front and center.

Tab Benoit is a true entertainer with vocals packed with passion and pain. His downright killer guitar chops dazzled the audience on several of his hit songs, “Shelter Me” “Medicine”, “Night Train” “Nice and Warm” “Dirty Dishes” and more. The crowd, spanning in age from 20’s to 60’s, swayed and danced to Benoit’s music. At one point I made my way back to our table, and took in Tab Benoit and the crowd from another vantage point. There were older guys in the back, singing along with Benoit, some letting loose with bent knees and outstretched arms as if they were performing the songs themselves.

Photo: Martine Ehrenclou

I then realized that this was the church of Tab Benoit. It’s no wonder he won the BB King Entertainer of the Year award, among others. He told interesting stories and funny jokes. He had the audience in his hands and has some kind of way of commanding a room of his loyal blues fans.

At one point in the evening he said to us, “The Blues is a dying art form. That’s why you’re here, right? To listen to real music.”

The crowd went crazy and yelled, “Yeaaaaahhh.”

Benoit continued, all with his Southern drawl. “There’s a lot of fake music out there. We want real music. That’s what we’re trying to do with Whiskey Bayou Records.” He explained that with his record label, he records and produces like they used to. “We play one song and record. And if you can’t cut it, you’re fired.”

Again, the crowd laughed with Benoit.

Chuckling himself, Benoit cut in and said, “Nah, but the second time if you can’t do it then you’re fired.” He continued, “The next song we’re going to play is on one of my records, but I don’t know which one, ‘cause I don’t listen to them.”

Everyone in that place laughed. We loved him for that.

Benoit then launched into his song, “Darkness” from his albums, Legacy: The Best of Tab Benoit and Night Train To Nashville. This song cuts to the core, beautiful in its longing and poetry of love lost. Benoit gave himself over to this song of heartache, and the crowd sang with him once the first chorus chimed in. His guitar solo was a work of art really. Soulful, moving and melodic. He is some player, knowing how powerful it is to play less, rather than filling every bar with notes.

Benoit made that guitar sing, and personally, I think you have to experience that live. This Southern bluesman has a rare feel on guitar, and he plays it with passion, his music touching deep places. It was all about making his fans feel something, rather than a showman showing off. Being able to make a guitar moan is one thing, but to feel that while playing it, is something else altogether.

Pulling us out of the reverie from the last tune, Benoit and the band launched into “Feel Alright,” a boogie, up-tempo number that recharged the energy in the room. I believe he followed that tune with, “Whole Lotta Soul,” a blues, swamp rocker, which extended into a full-on, impressive jam that lasted over seven minutes.

Benoit followed up that song with more humor. He let us know that the show was coming to a close and then said he wished he could play all night. I believed him. He mentioned that he hadn’t performed at this place in such a long time. “Southern California must have gotten further away from Louisiana since then,” and the expression on his face was playful, fun. He was having a good time too.

From blues, Southern blues, country with some twang, and even a blues-rock jam, Tab Benoit is something else. Someone to see live for sure.

Tab Benoit’s tour schedule http://www.tabbenoit.com/tour/

Website http://www.tabbenoit.com

 

 

 

 

By |2018-11-01T11:30:41+00:00October 29th, 2018|Concert Reviews|14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Richard Durden October 29, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    You said it perfectly—-you have to experience the guitar and passion of Tab Benoit live! It sounds like a cliche, but he is so passionate about his music and Blues in particular. Glad you were able to see him and “feel” him close-up!!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 29, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Richard,
      Thank you. It’s so true and now I get it. He is very passionate about his music and Blues. I’m so glad I was able to see him live too! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Kenny Clerke October 30, 2018 at 7:19 am - Reply

    I’ve seen Tab twice in the last 2 years. Once from a Balcony seat and another time from the 3rd Row of the Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival! He’s such a FANTASTICALLY TALENTED Guitarist/Vocalist but he’s also and Incredible Entertainer! I LOVE how he tells stories (definitely a Southern thing) and relates to the crowd through ALL of it!!! GREAT Review Martine!!! Thank You!!!

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 30, 2018 at 7:47 am - Reply

      Kenny,
      He is fantastically talented, I agree. He is a wonderful storyteller and entertainer. Thanks Kenny.

  3. Jac Trice October 30, 2018 at 8:22 am - Reply

    Great article and review. In my mind, where Tab absolutely sets himself apart, beyond his skill, is in his power. He has got to be one of the most powerful guitar players out there. If you are familiar with his history working in the oil industry, you understand why. Not for the faint of heart or those lacking strength. He is also one of the most powerful vocalists. His peers have said that they envy that voice. On the opposite end of this, and as you say, he also embraces the beauty of simplicity. It remains stunning to me that he is not more well known, but in discussion with him he does not seek fame. So those of us familiar with his shows, just need to keep spreading the word. He said as long as people keep showing up, he probably will too. Rock on.

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 30, 2018 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Jac,
      I agree with you that he is one of the most powerful guitar players and vocalists out there. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Jac Trice October 30, 2018 at 8:29 am - Reply

    And you must make it down to the VOW Festival in October. It is a Music Mecca experience and that is no exaggeration.

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 30, 2018 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Jac,
      I would love to attend the VOW festival next year. Thanks for the info.

  5. Jac Trice October 30, 2018 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Sweet!

  6. Gary October 30, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I’ve been a fan since Nice And Warm landed.
    I have not had the chance to see him live.
    But he is on my list !!

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 30, 2018 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Gary,
      I hope you get to see Tab Benoit live! He is a must see. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Brad Elligood October 30, 2018 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Nice review. I passed on Saint Rocke, and saw Coach House and Belly-Up this time around. I’ve seen Tab over 20 times, going back to late 90’s. He never disappoints.

    • Martine Ehrenclou October 30, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Brad,
      Thanks. I’ve been wanting to go to The Belly Up. I hear it’s great. 20 times- that’s amazing. You’re right he doesn’t disappoint. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Greg Reaves November 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I got to see Tab for the first time at this year’s Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas. What a fun show. Loved how he interacts with the audience and when he broke into “These Arms of Mine” …all I could say is “WOW!” I will definitely be catching Tab every chance I get.

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