It happened again on Sunday night in Tacoma. this question that pops up at probably every Walter Trout show, “Where did THIS guy come from,” as I stood off to the side of the venue where someone asked me how long this guy been around. Trout’s reply is usually something like “I’ve been here, where have you been?” And as fans of this guitar badass we usually reply in the same way, of course dropping some heavy names that he’s played with like John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat, Percy Mayfield and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
I thinks it’s probably easy enough for some people in the crowd to take for granted that Trout is among the world’s elite guitar players but I think something that might get missed is just how hard he worked to get back to this spot. We are still only a few years removed from him literally laying on his death bed, with just hours to keep breathing air on planet earth. But because of a generous organ donor Walter is among the living and he is no doubt making the absolute most of his second chance at life.
The show on Sunday was at Tacoma’s Cultura Event Center, which is quickly becoming the place in Grit City to see the upper level blues players. The Trout show was another sold-out crowd and they excitedly waited for The Walter Trout Band, while grooving to The Randy Oxford Band. I only caught the last few songs of Oxford but it turned out to be a great segue for what was coming next. After Jonathan ‘Oogie’ Richards introduced the world renowned shredder, the crowd erupted in a chorus of cheers, no doubt partly because of his music but also that they were about to see a determined man make the most of this night.
The Walter Trout band is made up of course of the namesake on guitar and vocals. Michael Leasure sits behind the kit and he’s as ferocious of a drummer as you will find anywhere, blues or otherwise. Sammy Avila puts on a keyboard clinic whenever he’s on stage and Walter’s bass player of the last few years, Johnny Griparic is a well-seasoned pro that has played with an impressive list of people that includes Slash and many others. He’s a great showman as well and he brought the low-end thunder to the Cultura stage on Sunday. Walter’s son Jon also came out for various songs, donning a Lamb of God T-Shirt and showing that he’s got the chops just like his pops. The band also had a guest guitarist named Jake Rattet who made his pristine Gibson Firebird scream, while having a ball playing with Trout.
A big highlight for the night for me was after the crowd was leaving, the amps had been turned off and cords were being unplugged. That’s when local guitar legend Jerry Miller went up on stage to say hello to Walter. As Trout excitedly told Jerry that going to see him in Moby Grape so many years ago was one of the reasons he does what he does today. I was happy for Jerry, because most music fans from Tacoma know he’s never gotten the respect he deserves, even though he was #68 in Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarists of all-time.
And Walter, what can you say about the guy? He just rips, tears and shreds the guitar every time he gets near one. One other thing about him though, which was on display Sunday is that while he’s known for his blazing speed on the guitar, he can flat out get filthy on the slow blues. In my opinion he NEVER gets enough credit for that but blues fans that are in the know. They know what to expect from him and that’s a night of entertainment that will include ear-bleeding electric guitar routed through a Mesa Boogie amp cranked to 11 but will also include slow blues licks that cut straight through you. On Sunday he delivered this as well as stellar vocals as well.
Check out more photos from the show on Facebook HERE.