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REVIEW: Jimmie Vaughan, Blues Advocate (Dakota Jazz Club)

A promotional photo of Jimmie Vaughan, who played a sold-out show at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening.

Jimmie Vaughan’s website proclaims that “he’s dedicated his life to making sure the blues not only stays alive, but remains full of life and an inspiration to all who listen.” Indeed, at 70, Vaughan remains a tireless, hard-driving live musician. Right after his two-hours-plus performance at The Dakota last night, Vaughand and his “Tilt-a-Whirl” band hit the road for a concert in Omaha tonight. Tomorrow, they’ll be in Kansas City for yet another performance.

That’s a schedule that would tire old normal mortals half Vaughan’s age, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down in the slightest.

It was a crowded stage at the Dakota Jazz Club on Tuesday evening, with Vaughan receiving the usual superb support from Mike Flanigin on vocals a the Hammond B3 Organ, with fine work by Doug James on sax, Mike Rinta on trombone, Billy Pitman on rhythm guitar, Billy Horton on the upright Bass, and Jason Corbiere on drums. Many of the evening’s songs came from Vaughan’s Grammy-nominated album Baby, Please Come Home (2019) and its energetic predecessor Live at C-Boy’s (2017).

For many, Vaughan will be forever associated with his 1970s and 1980s band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. There were, indeed, a couple of Thundberbirds selections: “Scratch My Back” and “The Crawl”. Others may recall Vaughan primarily as the older brother of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash back in 1990. Jimmie played his brother Stevie’s classic “Texas Flood” in the middle of the set, and Jimmie’s little brother also appeared as the inspiration for “Six Strings Down” (“Heaven done called / Another blues-stringer back home”). Most of the evening was celebration, however, not mourning.

A promotional photo of Jimmie Vaughan.

One does not go to a Jimmie Vaughan concert for the song lyrics – there are instrumentals mixed in with titles like “Boom Bapa Boom,” “Silly Dilly Woman,” and “Do the Mamma Jamma.” One comes to hear Vaughan for the hard-driving guitar-and-organ blues; the evening included covers of classics by Gatemouth Brown and Slide Hampton. One also comes out for for the honky tonk dance music, which left the sold-out Dakota crowd regretting that there was no dance floor on site.

The evening also held a special bonus: towards the end of the set, Jimmie Vaughan invited Sue Foley (bright pink top standing out against the dark Texas blues outfits all around) onto the stage, to perform “Jimmie Lee” with the band. Vaughan added a bit of whimsy to the evening; on “Scratch My Back”, he repeatedly made his guitar make sounds like a chicken. He added: “I hope y’all not trying to be serious tonight.”

At another point in the evening, Vaughan remarked to the audience, “You might think I’m sad because I sing all these sad songs, but I’m really a happy guy!” The whole evening seemed to back this up. Jimmie Vaughan clearly enjoyed playing his songs, performing with his band, bringing a bit of Texas heat to an autumnal Minneapolis stage.

Brian Bix