Walter Trout At Iridium: Blistering Blues Rock And Tales Of Survival

“Personally, I’m happy to be anywhere,” stated Walter Trout, as he was introducing the second tune of his set on Tuesday night at The Iridium in New York City. The 68-year-old blues veteran wasn’t referring to the storied music club in Manhattan’s Theater District, which has seen such luminaries like Les Paul, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Joe Walsh, Joe Satriani and Mick Taylor. Trout was talking about being on planet earth. It was the first of repeated references to survival he made throughout the show.

Five years ago, Trout found himself near death in a hospital with liver failure. “I was in Canned Heat,” he sarcastically remarked, referring to his four-year stint in the blues rock band from 1981 to 1985, adding he is the only survivor of their lineup at the time. Trout is alive thanks to a liver transplant he received in 1994. When he was released from the hospital, he had to learn again how to talk and how to walk – and, yes, how to play the guitar!

Noting that playing guitar was the only thing he had ever known and that he had been a guitarist since 1969, Trout said he practiced six to seven hours every day. Eventually, his skills came back. Trout’s agonizing recovery took one year. In 2015, he documented his ordeal in what he described as a very dark album: Battle Scars. And in January this year, he released what’s aptly called Survivor Blues, a covers album with tunes Trout feels are forgotten gems. I wrote about this excellent record here. In fact, it was that album that brought Trout on my radar screen, which culminated in Tuesday night’s show. And boy, what a great gig it was to watch!

Walter Trout & Band Collage
Clockwise: Walter Trout, Teddy Zig Zag, Michael Leasure, Johnny Griparic, Paul Schaffer and Anthony Grisham

For the most part, Trout played tunes from Survivor Blues, as well as his two preceding studio albums We’re All In This Together (2017) and the aforementioned Battle Scars. His great backing band included Teddy Zig Zag (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Michael Leasure (drums) and Johnny Griparic (bass). There were also appearances by two guests: Tour manager Anthony Grisham (guitar) and Paul Schaffer (keyboards).

Let’s get to some music. With a pole right in front of me, taking video was a bit tricky. The first song I’d like to highlight is Me, My Guitar And The Blues from Survivor Blues. The powerful cover of Jimmy Dawkins’ title track from his 1997 solo album was the above mentioned second tune of the set. At about 1:42 minutes into the song, Trout explains the idea behind the covers album.

Almost Gone is the opener to Battle Scars, the first album Trout recorded after his long recovery from his liver disease and transplant. Now I get the feelin’ that somethin’s goin’ wrong/Can’t help believin’ I won’t last too long/Won’t last too long, too long/Hey, I can see the writing on the wall/Hey, I believe I’m about to lose it all/I look around, I look around and everything I see/Reminds me of the way, reminds me of the way I used to be

Another track from Survivor Blues is a song written by Sunnyland Slim called Be Careful How You Vote. The title track to his 1989 studio album couldn’t be more timely, but the true highlight is the music. In addition to Trout’s guitar, the tune features great  Hammond and harmonica work by Paul Schaffer and Teddy Zig Zag, respectively – and all of it over a nice shuffling groove. If you watch one clip only, I’d recommend this one – it’s worth all of its 12 minutes and 14 seconds!

I’d like to conclude with the title track of Trout’s 2017 studio album We’re All In This Together. This tune features a guest appearance by Anthony Grisham who does a nice job on guitar, taking solo turns with Trout.

Toward the end of the show Trout, spoke passionately about organ donation. He noted in the U.S. there are currently 120,000 people waiting for an organ. Each month, time is running out for about 2,000 of them – a true national emergency, as he called it. Trout also reminded the audience that humans have eight vital organs that could potentially save eight lives, pointing to himself as living proof what organ donation can do. Since November 2015, Trout has been a patron of the British Liver Trust. He certainly is a compelling ambassador.

Tuesday’s gig at The Iridium was Trout’s third date during his ongoing U.S. tour. The next upcoming shows include Bay Shore, N.Y. (tonight), Pawtucket, R.I. (Friday) and Plymouth, N.H. (Saturday). Altogether, the U.S. leg includes 17 gigs and concludes on April 27 in Pelham, Tenn. The current schedule also shows dates in Europe in May, June, August and October.

Sources: Wikipedia, Walter Trout website, YouTube

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19 thoughts on “Walter Trout At Iridium: Blistering Blues Rock And Tales Of Survival”

  1. Who all do you have on your concert radar this spring/ summer? I had heard the name Walter Trout- but am much more familiar with Kilgore Trout and Mike Trout!

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    1. Ha, too many fish in the sea!😀 I’m currently listening to a fierce young blues rock guitar lady called Samantha Fish. I feel like the Blues is one of the few music genres that remain pretty vibrant.

      While I had heard of Walter Trout before, he only got on my radar when I stumbled across his most recent album “Blues Survivor” that came out in January.

      That record features the kind of electric guitar blues rock I dig. Then I found out he was going to tour and voila.

      It was also my first time at The Iridium. Man, when you enter that music club, it’s like you’re getting on holy ground. There are autographed guitars and paintings everywhere on the walls. It starts with Les Paul who performed there frequently for many years during the later stages of his life. Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Joe Jackson and Sting are among the many other famous artists who have played there.

      As for upcoming stuff, the only bigger concert I currently have are The Who at Madison Square Garden in May. I also got a ticket for The Rolling Stones at MetLife Stadium in NJ, but all dates of their U.S. tour are being rescheduled due to Mick’s heart valve surgery – I still can’t believe the fittest guy by far in that band got knocked out, at least temporarily!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Who are coming this way in late May- I was thinking about it but I’ve seen them twice- I’d like to see The Stones again- I bet Mick is back and better than ever.. but Keith RIchards is my pick to be the Last Man Standing out of every 60’s rocker.

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      2. It will be my third and most likely last time I’m seeing The Who. Unlike the two previous gigs, this show will be with a symphony orchestra. Frankly, that aspect had somehow completely escaped me when I purchased my ticket. And while it’s probably fair to say that having a symphony orchestra back a rock band could go either way, I find it cool that Daltrey and Townshend decided to challenge themselves. Instead, they simply could have done the same old, same old, and nobody would have complained!

        As for the Stones, I think you’re right about both about Mick coming back stronger and Keith somehow outliving them all!😀

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  2. Trout sounds great. The Iridium no less. Interesting that blues guys like Clapton who “go pop” can sell out the arenas whereas “pure” blues guys like Trout (unless they’re in a Canned Heat) will likely only see the inside of an arena as a paying customer. Trout is headed here but given my newfound, “It’s ok if I don’t see every band” philosophy, it’s likely I won’t go.

    Speaking of Clapton, he’s doing one of his Crossroads festivals in Dallas in September. I am sorely tempted to go but calculate it would cost $1000+ after you add in flight, hotel, meals, etc. Maybe I should just move to Texas and be done with it. 😂

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    1. I guess the music world can be cruel. Though I have a feeling when it comes to Walter Trout, he’s just grateful to still be around. It was really moving when he talked about his liver disease and how close he was to death. And the fact that he had to start over again, including learning how to play the guitar when he returned home from the hospital is just incredible!

      As for Crossroads, yep, it surely sounds cool. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to one of them.

      But, to put it in perspective, my Walter Trout ticket cost me $50. Sure, to this you have to add the Iridium’s minimum food and drink. In my case, those expenses were something like $37 including tip. So that’s less than $100 in total. Put another way, I could do at least 10 Iridium shows for that one Crossroads event.

      Of course, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. It still illustrates how big acts increasingly become unaffordable for “regular folks” like you and me.

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      1. It can’t be simple to relearn an instrument. For guys like us, it’s a hobby so it’s less vital. But for Trout it’s his bread and butter, so, yeah.

        The thing that’s frustrating about Clapton is that I had literally just been thinking about Crossroads like a week ago and realizing (so I thought) that there’d never be another one. Then I hear about this. So while intellectually I agree with you 100%, emotionally I’m sad I won’t be going. It’s a bucket list thing that I could save my dimes and pennies for. But still…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trout admitted he had suffered some brain damage, which to this day apparently can sometimes impact his speech, though I didn’t notice any difficulties that night. His description of how he practiced for 6-7 hours every day, since the guitar was the only professional skill he had ever learned was pretty moving.

        If Crossroads is on your bucket list, maybe you should do it after all. I know it it would be a big investment. I just read something about the festival as well, and the lineup is crazy. It sounds like it could be a very unique experience and likely the last time Clapton stages the event.

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      3. I think that a casual, random reading of my posts would prove that one can operate at a fairly high level with brain damage! Secondly, its still entirely possible, if not highjy likely, that I may go to that show.

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