Jonny Lang to headline Free Summer Concert Series Friday
Steamboat Springs — Performing with such greats as the Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Blues Traveler, Jeff Beck, Sting and Eric Clapton, Jonny Lang discovered there really is no rule book when it comes to being a superstar.
Picking up the guitar at age 12, recording his first album at 14 and quickly earning a Grammy and a long list of other accomplishments, this Fargo North Dakota native proved he had talent beyond his years.
Although he may not incorporate moves like Mick Jagger into his live performance, he was able to find his own rhythm of talent that spurred him into a career as a modern blues rock and roll singer, songwriter and guitarist that has spanned more than two decades.
“I know what music has done for me and the songs and artists that have changed my life,” Lang said over the phone Wednesday afternoon after finishing a round of golf near Arvada. “To maybe be that for someone along the way is the goal for me. Sure, it’s always a rush to be on stage, but to have it be about inspiring someone through music, that is how this career provides an endless supply of fuel to keep going.”
And today, the blues veteran known for his electrifying stage presence and gritty, raw blues sound will be on the Howelsen Amphitheater stage beginning at 7 p.m. for the Free Summer Concert Series. The Los Angeles rock/roots blues trio, The Record Company will be the opener for the concert, starting the night off at 5:30 p.m.
“I couldn’t get enough of his music when I first heard one of his songs,” said Ashley Waters, event director at the Chief Theater and longtime Lang fan. “It’s music that makes you feel something, and because it is so soulful, it just gets to you at the core.”
With time, Lang said he’s seen his music evolve from powerful, fast-fingered guitar tracks to more soulful Stevie Wonder-influenced songs. Some of the albums that spurred his career include “Smokin’” (1995) and “Lie to Me” (1997) the latter of which was released a day before his 16th birthday, went platinum and quickly hit No. 1 on the Billboard’s New Artist Chart soon after it was released.
Asked what words of advice he would give to his younger self, Lang said, “You know that voice — that one inside that you can hear when you are about to do something that you know you shouldn’t be doing — just listen to it. Please. But, with that said, I don’t think that would change anything.”
Lang’s more recent albums include “Turn Around” (2003), his fifth studio album that won the Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, and the independently recorded album, “Fight for My Soul” (2013), which marked his first album release after a seven-year break. It features an intensely honest subject matter that bears evidence to how much Lang has grown up over the years.
“I’ve definitely had my share of snags along the way, but after awhile, you find your rhythm,” Lang said. “I would say this album is a bit more raw in some respects and more honest. It has that edge to it with some of the darker places I’ve seen or been a part of in life. But I didn’t want to hold anything back.”
Fans both old and new say Lang’s talent and authenticity, even from a young age, could captivate any audience.
“His passion is just so amazing,” said Larry Parker, who coordinated his vacation to Steamboat Springs just so he could see Lang perform at Howelsen. “He has this intensity when he plays, and you can just see how much he enjoys performing. His stage presence is infectious.”
Although Lang doesn’t have a sense of allegiance to one particular style of music, he doesn’t hold anything back when recording or performing a live show.
“In his songs, he creates this sense that anything is possible, combined with catchy tunes that just make you want to dance,” Waters said. “This show is definitely going to get everyone dancing and having a blast. If people were not fans before, they will for sure become one.”
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Members of the Ute tribe from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation will return to Steamboat Springs to perform a series of powwow dance performances and share the history of these dances and their culture.