Lightning Strikes Twice - Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat – Live
The Alamo, 5th Ave, Springfield -
Blue Monday, January 28, 2008
Judy Burgess and James Walker
The audience witnessed something enjoyably
unique on Monday night, January 28, 2008. Jim Suhler and Monkey
Beat from Texas returned to the Blues Stage at The Alamo in
Springfield IL. After their last amazing performance here on January
22, 2007, we expected a lot! And, we got it! We felt like the music
completely took over and was in charge.
The night began promptly at 8:30 with an
acoustic set by Suhler and bassist Carlton Powell on a flat-top six
string. A literal hush fell over the crowd as the music began to
take control. The acoustic set ended after two songs due to a
technical glitch. But, when Sean Phares took his place at the
keyboard, and Jimmy Morgan took his seat at the drums, the music
grabbed the audience and didn't let go until almost 11:30 pm. What
The band played two and a half hours with no
break. That might be a record. James Walker said that once he
witnessed Tab Benoit play for 100 minutes straight, although his
bassist and drummer took a mid set break. Well, move over Tab!
There were times when it seemed the musicians
meant for a song to end, and it simply refused, taking on a life of
its own. One song melded into the next, without a pause between, and
carried the audience on a ride that we wouldn't have wanted to miss.
Often when Suhler was changing guitars or adjusting tunings, there
could have been a natural pause between two numbers, but he would
signal the others to keep a beat going. So, Carlton Powell on bass,
Sean Phares on keyboard and accordion, and drummer Jimmy Morgan
would play a shuffle or rumbling rhythm until Suhler took command.
When there was a rare pause between songs, the musicians would grab
a serious gulp of ice water.
Suhler was amazing! With tons of sonic
effects, this was serious power and sound being manipulated and
broadcast through our bodies, minds, and souls. Suhler joined the
guitar: he did not just pick it and play it – he was the surfer and
it was his surfboard. A song takes you on a journey, and we were all
just hanging on, mesmerized.
Sean Phares traded his keyboard for an
accordion on several occasions as the music took on a
Louisiana-Texas border flavor. Jimmy Morgan's rhythm set the beat,
subtly changing and leading the band from one song to the next.
Suhlar had six guitars racked beside him including a National steel
bodied guitar, a Telecaster Thinline with a capo, and several
Stratocasters. The ever-changing guitars of Jim Suhler, the bass
line of Carlton Powell, and the keyboard prowess of Sean Phares
completed the magic that kept the audience under a spell. Standing
ovations and spontaneous applause punctuated the night. The
musicians were having as much fun as we were, and that was
contagious. The communication between them was obvious. A glance
between two would bring on something new, and off we'd go.
One highlight of the evening was when Jim
Suhler moved out into the appreciative audience. At one point, after
he had stood on a chair for a few licks, he grabbed a full beer
bottle to use as a slide - until it began to splash. Then he chugged
what was left and threw the empty bottle behind him!
Suhler wowed with flat-picking, finger picking,
and lots of Texas-Blues style slide guitar. Song highlights included
Louisiana Red’s “Too Poor To Die” on a National resonator guitar and
Monkey Beat’s own feedback laden, heady version of Hendrix’s “Are
You Experienced?” Again, we were treated to a very special night
where the audience became part of the music - standing, clapping,
whistling and shouting. Don't miss a Blue Monday unless you have to; we
were privileged to be at this one!!!
Judy Burgess is the newsletter editor for
Springfield’s Illinois Central Blues Club’s News and Reviews.
is a noted Blues writer and Blues Blast
He is also the newsletter editor for Bloomington-Normal’s Blues
Blowtorch Society’s newsletter Blues News.