This was a rare visit to Chicago by a musical legend. White’s one of those guys who have been around forever and deserve to be just as famous as contemporaries like Eric Clapton, but have become more like cult figures known by only a small group of devoted fans. But at least a couple of his songs are instantly recognizable: “Polk Salad Annie” and “A Rainy Night in Georgia.” It was a frigid night in Chicago, not exactly appropriate weather for the guy who’s been credited with inventing “swamp rock,” but that didn’t matter.
The stage was spare. Just a chair for White with an amp set right next to it, and a few pedals — including the same wah-wah pedal that he’s been using since the 1960s, without even changing the battery. And a drum kit. White was wearing his trademark hat and shades. His mouth occasionally curled into a smirkish, mischievous smile. White’s music is perfectly suited for the stripped-down guitar-and-drums setup of his concerts — spare blues grooves, tasty little licks, some impressive solos, those growling vocals.
You can hear his influence on many artists, from ZZ Top to the Black Keys. White took hollered requests from the crowd and obliged with many of his best-known tunes, including the aforementioned ones as well as “Roosevelt and Ira Lee,” “Lake Placid Blues” and the silly but fun “Even Trolls Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Click here on the photo above to see my photos of Tony Joe White.
Read the Chicago Sun-Times’ interview with White.