Tab Benoit Live In Phoenix

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Come for the guitar and stay for the comedy? Many of the fans that attended the Tab Benoit concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix on June 9 had seen Benoit before, but those who had not found out during the show that the guitar slinger from Louisiana also has a keen comedic wit. And he can beat the drums pretty good too, as he demonstrated during an opening set from his fellow Louisianan Eric Johanson.

Benoit is on his Whiskey Bayou Review tour, named after his record label Whiskey Bayou, to which Johanson is signed to. Benoit and his band's bass player Corey Duplechin both played on Johanson's new album Burn it Down, so they did double duty for the evening as they served as Johanson's rhythm section. It's easy to hear why Benoit wanted to have Johanson on his label; Eric plays steaming hot guitar with lots of slide licks thrown in and he has a great voice for the blues as well. The trio played a handful of selections from Burn it Down, including the country-tinged love song to the home state "Oh Louisiana," the slow and kind of eerie "Live Oak" and the fuzz guitar blues rocker "Til We Bleed."

After a brief intermission Benoit returned to the stage, this time out front on guitar and vocals, joined by Duplechin and drummer Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander. The threesome opened with a fast boogie, a cover of the Bobby Charles chestnut "Why Are People Like That," a song that was first recorded by Muddy Waters. After the song Benoit commented on the atmosphere in the theater at MIM, which is a relatively small, dazzlingly clean listening room that's vastly different from the typical grungy nightclub. "Thanks for coming to see us in such a clean environment," Benoit said. "It smells so´┐Żneutral in here!" The comment only hinted at the humor that was yet to come.

After playing a hot version of favorite "Whole Lotta Soul," Benoit asked the crowd if they had any requests. Of course some wag hollered "Free Bird," completely in jest and Benoit knew that. But it gave him the opportunity to tell a funny story about how he used to play the song back in the early days of his career when he played wedding receptions. Benoit told lots of other amusing stories too, about how he used to give flying lessons and in particular to an odd character named Mario who spoke no English, about how he accidentally jammed a CD into a crack in his car's dashboard that was not a CD slot, and lots of tales about alligators. More than just humorous asides, Benoit demonstrated the talent of a stand-up comic, keeping the audience in stitches and at one point laughing so hard himself that he had to chill out a bit before he could sing the next song.

Playing without a set list, Benoit did oblige a couple of audience requests, playing "Muddy Bottom Blues" and the slow dance "These Arms of Mine," adding that, "You can dance to it, just not in here" (MIM has no dance floor or other area suitable for dancing.) Another funny moment came before Benoit played "Sac-au-lait Fishing," which translates from the French to mean "Bag of Milk Fishing." Tab further explained that outside of Cajun country the sac-au-lait fish is more commonly known as the crappie, and that's why the song title is "Sac-au-lait Fishing;" "I don't want to sing a song about crappy fishing!"

Benoit's humor and between-song commentary really showed his personality as he came across very warmly, seeming to be a fun guy that you'd have a good time drinking beer and avoiding alligators with, and not acting at all like the guitar god that he is. Alexander and Duplechin kept the grooves flowing flawlessly, and a great Cajun-flavored, blues rocking night was had by all. Opening act Johanson joined in for a rousing take on one of Benoit's favored closing numbers, "Night Train."

Benoit has concert dates scheduled through November; find a complete list of upcoming shows here.

MIM has an eclectic selection of shows upcoming and a list of them is here.

Tab Benoit Live In Phoenix

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