For someone who didn't pick up a guitar until he was 20, Joe Lewis sure seems to know what to do with it -- including playing it with his teeth for effect. Last night's packed house at Headliner's seemed primed and ready for such flourishes from a band known for both its musical prowess and loads of style. Austin-based Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears didn't skimp on either as they scorched their way through a set of soul, funk, and blues that would make the Godfather of Soul himself proud.
The weather did its part to set the mood for the night's show. After a tempest of rain, thunder, and lightning bolts rolled through the area, we entered the dark confines of Headliner's under more looming thunderheads and a bizarrely glowing yellow sky. But nothing short of a tornado could have made itself known inside the hall from the time Louisville's own Bad Reeds took the stage. Opening for the Honeybears, they delivered a crowd-pleasing set of rowdy blues and rock that more than warmed up the beer-swilling audience.
Joe Lewis, in addition to his ability to shred his Telecaster, knows how to use his voice to deliver the sense of the songs -- where to howl and wail, and where to slip into a slinkier, groovier rhythm. And as charismatic as he is, the rest of the band holds their own, particularly, the three-piece horn section -- alto and baritone saxophone and trumpet. Horn players are just naturally cool, and these three, dressed in white shirts and dark pants, dipping and swaying with the music, are just plain fun to watch.
Packed shoulder to shoulder in a dancing-frenzied crowd, I didn't even try to keep up with the set list, but the racy adventure of "Mustang Ranch" and the encore edition of "Sugarfoot" were two standouts. There aren't too many bands around that bring this kind of big, big sound and exciting energy to the stage. When BJL and the Honeybears come back to town, you'll want to make a point of getting out to experience it for yourself.
The Bad Reeds
BJL & the Honeybears
Honeybears horn section
Can't let the drummer hide
[Photo Credits: Lee Burchfield and Selena Frye]