Some blues legends joined up with the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Wednesday to make some amazing music.
The blues band, led by singer and harmonica player Kim Wilson, was onstage in front of hundreds at the Holland Performing Arts Center for “Blues at the Crossroads 2: Muddy and the Wolf,” a tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
The band played songs everyone knows (“Rollin' Stone” and “Spoonful”) and some pretty obscure songs, too (“Diamonds at Her Feet”) and were joined by some amazing and legendary artists.
“How y'all doin' tonight?” Wilson asked the audience. “We got a lot of blues for you this evening. You ready for that?”
It was certainly the best blues concert I've ever seen, mostly because of collaborations that occurred onstage. Wilson played “Little Red Rooster” with Tinsley Ellis on a resonator guitar. Later, Bob Margolin, James Cotton and Wilson played a wild rendition of “Death Letter Blues.”
The Fabulous Thunderbirds were the backbone of the nearly three-hour concert. They played incredibly well, but it was the band's guests, who came and went from the stage, that created the show's very best moments.
Guitarists Ellis (who shredded on his Fender Stratocaster), Margolin (a longtime member of Waters' band) and Jody Williams (whom Wilson called “one of the best musicians to ever pick up a guitar”) are all incredibly talented, but harmonica player Cotton was the highlight.
Even though Cotton is 77 years old and played from a chair, he had more energy than anyone else onstage. He led the entire band — amazing that a harmonica player can be the driving force in a blues group — through several instrumentals. Cotton plays harmonica better than you or I do just about anything.
“It's all right to make noise. We love hearing it,” he said to a couple of hooting fans. “If you feel like it, you shake what you got. That's all right, too.”
Wilson has incredible talent, too.
He acted as the entire group's frontman as well as the emcee for the evening. Audience members cheered wildly for him several times, and gave a standing ovation shortly before the intermission.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds played a very long instrumental that saw Wilson going crazy on a harmonica solo. In the middle of the song, the rest of the band left for several minutes and Wilson kept it going by himself.
There was a lot of talent onstage. Williams taught his guitar style to legendary players. Cotton has a Grammy and is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame.
Near the end of the set, all of the guests worked their way onstage and turned it into a big jam session. It was like watching the end of “The Blues Brothers 2000” where nearly two dozen blues legends rocked out together.
The concert ended with a jam of Waters' “Got My Mojo Working” that included everyone.
Each of the Fabulous Thunderbirds' guests played a solo, and it ended with Cotton and Wilson playing their harmonicas off of each other.
It was quite a sight, and the audience gave yet another standing ovation as the players left the stage.
“Thank y'all very much,” Wilson said. “Thank you for comin.'”
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