Don’t Be Zaggin’ When You Should Be Ziggin’

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Oriental Theater, December 2, 2021

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Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, Thursday, December 2, The Oriental Theater, Denver, CO.  Tommy Castro, Guitar and Vocals; Bowen Brown, Drums; Randy McDonald, Bass; Michael Emerson, Keyboards

There’s a reason Tommy Castro and the Painkillers’ 2019 live album is (aptly) called ‘Killing It Live’.  That’s what this legendary bluesman and his band do, every night.  And Thursday, December 2 at the Oriental Theater in Denver, was no exception.  Despite battling a painful throat that worsened as the night wore on, Tommy and crew delighted the Denver crowd with an eclectic set (two sets, actually) of both old and new.

The show was billed as a release party for the new album ‘Tommy Castro Presents A Bluesman Came to Town’Bluesman was actually released on September 17, so most of the faithful in attendance didn’t need introductions to the handful of songs played from it.  Both the title track and the infectiously bouncy ‘I Caught A Break’ were part of the band’s first set, while lead track ‘Somewhere’ showed up in the second.  And while Jimmy Hall, the harmonica player on the album, wasn’t in attendance, Tommy had invited another Jimmy to join the group on stage to fill in.  Denver’s own Jimmy Junior absolutely rocked it.

The Oriental crowd was raucous, from the opening cover of Albert King’s ‘Night Stomp’ through an impromptu selection of songs where Randy McDonald took over lead vocal duties as Tommy’s voice began to give out.  Before that happened, Tommy brought down the house with a blistering version of ‘Serves Me Right to Suffer’.  And though his voice eventually did give out, his guitar playing was typical Tommy, with sizzling solos, straight ahead rock and roll hooks, and irresistibly funky grooves.

Unfortunately, the band wasn’t able to return to the stage for an encore following their second set.  With the crowd waiting, Tommy did come back on stage to apologize, stating that he just didn’t have the voice to do any more.  It was difficult to tell what pained him more – the physical pain of his throat, or the disappointment of not being able to wrap up the show the way he wanted to.  But even though the crowd might have missed out on a song or two, no one left disappointed.  It was a terrific show from a legendary performer, and an exceptional way to spend a Thursday night in Denver.

Images and review by Rick Witt

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