Boogie with the Hook, 1992

JohnLeeHookerAn important blurb in The Red Devils’ bio is the band’s opening slot for blues legend John Lee Hooker. That phrase — “opened for John Lee Hooker” — is Blues Credibility in Five Words or Fewer.

As far as can find, the Devils opened for the Hook one time, on Feb. 20, 1992, in Los Angeles.

This is a review of that show, courtesy of the Daily News of Los Angeles.

By Fred Shuster, Daily News Critic
Feb. 22, 1992

Judging by the amount of money changing hands outside the Variety Theatre on Thursday for tickets to the sold-out John Lee Hooker concert, you would think the latest post-punk sensation from Seattle was giving a recital.

Inside, though, it was business as usual for Hooker, who at 74 is the last of the great Delta bluesmen. Sitting center stage, face shadowed by a wide-brim hat, Hooker pounded out the one-chord boogie riffs that have been approximated by three generations of blues-rockers, from Humble Pie to Robert Cray.

Probably the most-recorded blues artist of all time, the singer-guitarist has gotten plenty of mileage out of a relatively slight musical structure. With little variation besides tempo, it’s often difficult to tell the songs apart. His album title “Endless Boogie” was apt.

For anyone who has had little exposure to authentic blues performers, the Hooker show must have been nothing short of a revelation. When Hooker sings ”Cold Chills All Over Me” or “Crawling King Snake Blues,” it’s clear this is no re-creation. One thing about blues is, you can always tell when it’s rooted in the performer’s experience. Hooker sings from the heart.

The best moments came when Hooker brought his mediocre seven-piece backup band down to a whisper. Then, Hooker would hum, repeat words and phrases and generally get back to the country roots of his sound.

In this part of the show, it became clear that Van Morrison picked up some of his phrasing from Hooker. In fact, the two singers perform a superb duet on Hooker’s Grammy-nominated new album, “Mr. Lucky.”

The recent death of Willie Dixon must have reminded rock fans that the great blues masters won’t be around forever, because the Variety quickly sold out. Ironically, Hooker couldn’t have packed an ice-cream parlor in this town two years ago.

On Thursday, scene-makers like Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah, Bruce Willis, assorted USC students and the “90210” crowd mingled in the lobby.

Opening the show were the Red Devils, a fine house-rocking blues band led by a Paul Butterfield-style harmonica player. This was roadhouse blues at its best.

Published by J.J.

Drums and barbecue ribs. Blues music.

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