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When it comes to blues rock guitarists currently breathing oxygen and are above ground, select few on this planet on are on the level of Walter Trout. He’s earned this coveted spot with a lengthy career that includes stints with legendary British bluesman John Mayall, Canned Heat and a three decade long solo career that’s taken him around the world and back numerous times. And while throughout the years he’s been known to catch hell from a couple of disgruntled blues purists here and there, Trout’s story is as blues as it gets and Trout’s music is also as blues as it gets. From face-melting blues rock guitar riffs that will make the hair on your arms stand up, to slow blues that will make your soul wail along with the melody, Walter Trout and his mega-talented outfit have one of the liveliest and entertaining shows you’ll find in any genre.
Friday night’s show at the Spanish Ballroom at McMenamins in Tacoma promised to be another roof raising affair by the Walter Trout Band and with the show being sold out well in advance, folks were scrambling online to try to scare up tickets to get inside. The lucky ones that made it into the packed ballroom were treated to the kind of show the band is famous for and the seated crowd soaked it all up. With a setlist that included songs both new and old, Trout fans got their money’s worth (and then some).
No Walter Trout show would be complete without a few stories from the man who’s lived, died and came back to life (more than a few times) and he unleashed some classics. The audience roared as he told the story of being on tour with John Mayall and being carried off of a plane in Australia, while taking a two-Quaalude and 5th of Jack Daniels induced nap, and then being placed on the baggage conveyor belt by his bandmates. Other stories were a bit more serious, especially when he explained the out of body experience he had while laying in a hospital bed a handful of years ago while dying from liver disease. And of course, he didn’t die, in the 11th hour a suitable donor was found and he thankfully beat the grim reaper by a few hours. And while he did a fantastic job of telling the story to a silent crowd, he REALLY told the story with the song he wrote about the experience.
Another of the stories explained a song that Trout covered on Survivor Blues, his 2019 release that found him covering many blues songs that probably never got the limelight they richly deserved. The song was “Red Sun” by Floyd Lee and Trout lovingly told of how he tracked down Lee (who’s still alive at 100) and told him to expect a check for publishing royalties. The band took the obscure track and turned up to 11 with a rendition that would blow the doors off anything anything you’d hear currently on rock radio.
The night found the band mixing it up well with plenty of high octane jam sessions between Trout and badass bass player Johnny Griparic, ferocious drumming by Michael Leasure and new addition on the keys, Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis. Walter also brought out his tour manager Anthony Grisham on guitar for more than a few songs and he fit like a glove. Grisham has a long history with the Trout family, playing in bands with Trout’s own kids at various times.
When the main set ended, the well lubricated crowd wasn’t quite ready for the night to end and the shouting for more music filled the ballroom from floor to ceiling. After a quick break the band returned and while most of the show was a seated affair, for the explosive encore Trout insisted everyone get on their feet and the crowd was more than happy to oblige, dancing the evening away as the band played the final notes. As the house lights came on and people started shuffling towards the exits, it was clear that Trout has once again delivered the goods.