The Kahilu Theatre kicked off its 2019/2020 season concert opener with nearly a three-hour show featuring the Jimmie Vaughan Trio. The concert sold-out weeks ago, and when the house lights were up you could see pockets of people dancing in corners, clapping along to the songs, and in general having fun on a Saturday night in Waimea.
Jimmie Vaughan, the legendary blues guitarist, grew up in Dallas and is best known as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother, although to his own credit he’s taken home four Grammys and formed the Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson. Back when he was just a teenager, he opened for Hendrix, and saved Jimi’s butt by lending him his effects pedal for the legendary guitarist’s section of the show.
Vaughan is on tour in support of his new release, Baby, Please Come Home, an 11-track album that features blues tunes from Antoine “Fats” Domino & Dave Bartholomew, T-Bone Walker, Chuck Willis, Jimmy Reed, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and even country legend Lefty Frizzell. Usually Vaughan tours with a horn section, but for the Hawaii leg of this tour he scaled it down to a trio.
Hammond B-3 organ maestro Mike Flanigin held his own Saturday night, providing lead vocals on a few tunes and making the beautiful instrument purr and growl to the crowd’s delight. I understand a Big Island couple loaned Flannigan their B-3 including the massive rotating speaker cabinet for the show. They watched proudly from backstage while Flanigan did several classic fat B3 organ runs. Flannigan started out in a Holiday Inn house band and has since worked with Gary Clark, Jr. and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
Drummer extraordinaire Jason Corbiere is also a very experienced blues musician. The Grammy nominated drummer has performed with Roomful of Blues, the Vermont roots reggae band Conscious Roots, and you can find him on Greg Izor & The Box Kickers new CD Close To Home.
After an instrumental blues shuffle, Vaughan announced, “When we play as a trio, we like to think of ourselves as a dance band. If anyone wants to dance, please dance!” With that intro, Vaughan launched into a powerful cover of Junior Walker & The All Stars’ 1966 single “Cleo’s Mood.” I spotted a young couple jump up and plant themselves in a corner near stage left where they grooved throughout the evening to dance numbers such as “The Crawl.”
Sharply dressed, from his silver-toed black leather cowboy boots to his slicked-back greased hair, the self-taught guitarist played his white “Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Stratocaster” with verve and precision. He’s not too flashy, but also not afraid to do some T-Bone Walker style “behind-the-head” guitar gimmicks made popular on the Chitlin’ Circuit and still looking pretty cool these days. At one point he got down on both knees to sing a romantic ballad.
Besides the blues, Vaughan also threw in some rockabilly and retro R&B to his 25-song set. And why not? The 68-year-old guitarist was influenced by these great tunes throughout his life. Organist Mike Flanigin told a story about Vaughan’s younger days when he’d ride his bike over to the Dairy Queen that had a juke box. “Jimmie would bring a roll of nickels,” said Flanigin, “and play ‘You Can’t Sit Down’ over and over to the point where the waitresses with purple-tinted bee-hive hairdos threw him out.”
It probably would’ve helped to have heard the originals for some of these songs before coming to the show as many go back over 50 years. The Dovells did the aforementioned tune, and there were covers by The Nightcaps, Bruce Channel, and Rosco Junior in the mix. Vaughan played “Texas Flood” off his late brother’s debut record, and told the audience to check out the 1958 original by blues singer Larry Davis. The “Rome Inn Theme” was a tip of the hat to a small Austin, Texas, club where Vaughan and his brother played early in their careers.
After the show, Vaughan and band went to the lobby to meet fans and sign merch. One guy brought his guitar which Vaughan was gracious to sign.
Vaughan and band will be doing a series of gigs with Eric Clapton starting on September 11 in San Francisco. There’s also a recently released film documentary titled From Nowhere: The Story of the Vaughan Brothers. It features interviews with Billy Gibbons, Jackson Browne and Nile Rodgers, as well as never-before-seen photos and home movies.
Brooks | Cleo’s Mood | Come On Rock Little Girl | Frame for the Blues | Just a Little Bit | Dirty Work at the Crossroads | Hey! Baby | You Can’t Sit Down | Thunderbird | Rome Inn Theme | Honey What’s Wrong With You | Do The Mama Jama | Hold It |
Kiko | Silly Dilly Woman | I Ain’t Never | Baby, Please Come Home | Dimples | Shake For Me | Baby, Scratch My Back | Texas Flood | The Crawl | White Boots |
Motorhead | Raining in My Heart | Wine, Wine, Wine
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby