Walter Trout announces new release, ALIVE in Amsterdam, recorded live in Amsterdam on the blues legend’s comeback tour & released June 17th on Mascot/Provogue. Battle Scars World Tour to hit the US and Europe this year.
To be released June 17th on Mascot/Provogue, ALIVE in Amsterdam is the sound of a man announcing his resurrection after a period on the ropes. As Trout’s army of international fans are painfully aware, recent times have taken the bandleader to the brink, following a bleak diagnosis of life-threatening liver failure and hepatitis C in 2013. Trout’s rebirth began with a successful transplant in May 2014, and gathered pace with 2015’s Battle Scars: the acclaimed studio album that channeled his near-death experience into raw autobiographical songs.
Walter Trout has never sounded so alive. The date is November 28th, 2015. The location is Amsterdam’s opulent Royal Theatre Carré. And the occasion is a live performance of the blues-rock legend at full-throttle. “We were rocking,” remembers Trout of the comeback concert captured on ALIVE in Amsterdam. “If people are expecting a laid-back show, that’s not what they’ll get. This is potent stuff…”
Yet for this lifelong road-warrior, a return to the stage was always the ultimate goal. And last summer, as Trout headed out on a comeback tour that blew the roof off venues from the Royal Albert Hall to Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago, every fan in the house saw that the man wasn’t just back, he was better than ever. “That whole tour was kinda triumphant for me,” Trout reflects. “Just to be back, after what I went through. But also to be playing with a renewed energy and commitment.
“I’d gone through a few years of symptoms,” he continues, “where I’d get hand-cramps, dizzy spells and chronic fatigue onstage. It was a struggle. On this last tour, I wasn’t struggling. We were having a great time. We couldn’t stop. ‘‘ALIVE in Amsterdam captures the atmosphere.”
It’s true: listen to ALIVE in Amsterdam and you’ll experience the same white-knuckle ride as the fans who filled the Royal Theatre Carré. It’s fitting that the Amsterdam show starts with an introduction by Trout’s wife and manager, Marie, who gave the bluesman the courage to fight on during his lowest points. “Having Marie on the album is very meaningful for me,” he says, “because she’s the one who kept me alive. She kept me fighting and wouldn’t let me give up.”
Trout himself hits the stage like a wrecking-ball, opening with an scorching burst of solo guitar (“Sometimes, when I get up there, I have so much energy that I’m bursting out of my skin”). When he launches into the set, meanwhile, all bets are off. “We never have a setlist,” explains the frontman of his seat-of-the-pants interplay with drummer Michael Leasure, keyboards ace Sammy Avila and bassist Johnny Griparic. “We play very spontaneously, and I gauge it by the crowd and how the show is going.”
Trout says. “Instead I had to cancel an entire year of touring. That’s what the song on Battle Scars, ‘My Ship Came In’ is about: My ship came in and I missed it! I’d waited all my life for a record label to get behind me to that extent, and then that plan fell apart.”
Trout is now moving triumphantly forward in his 50th year as a guitarist. He is in the midst of a global tour with his band: keyboardist Sammy Avila, drummer Michael Leasure, and new bassist Johnny Griparic, who joined in time to record Battle Scars in Los Angeles’ Kingsize Soundlabs with Trout’s longtime producer Eric Corne. “I don’t take this lightly,” Trout declares. “Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses” — which generated more than $240,000 – “bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have.”
Curry believes the way to convert an audience is to perform an undeniably engaging set. “One thing I really enjoy is putting together a show,” he acknowledges. “We all have so much fun when we’re up there. Interacting with your bandmates or interacting with the people in the crowd — like maybe jumping off the mike and stepping out front and singing to them really loud — can really make people think, ‘This is so great!’ Sometimes it’s the real simple things that will connect you to the audience like that.”
As much as Matthew Curry is invested in summoning the spirit of the blues — a commitment that’s in full display on the pair of smokin’ hot albums he’s released to date, 2011’s barn-burning If I Don’t Got You and 2014’s hard-charging testifier Electric Religion — the 19-year-old guitar slinger and soulful singer from Bloomington, Illinois likes to take a much broader view of his style. “If somebody came up and asked me what I would call my music, I don’t think I would say ‘the blues,’” he admits. “And I don’t think I would say ‘rock and roll,’ either. I would actually say, ‘good music.’ Blues is my first love, but I also love ’60s rock like Cream, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. I’m also into things like Southern rock, Chet Atkins, and The Allman Brothers. All of those artists are complete musicians. They write great songs, and they sing great too. They’re just incredible.”
All in all, it’s been an amazing trajectory for someone who just couldn’t get enough of that guitar stuff at age 4 to having a tune he’d written, If I Don’t Got You’s epic tour de jam “Blinded by the Darkness,” win accolades as the Best Blues Song in the International Songwriting Competition. “My dad had this beautiful Martin acoustic guitar, and he was really big into old-school blues like Muddy Waters,” Matthew recalls. “It really caught my ear. I can remember my dad sitting in his recliner and playing his acoustic while I would just sit on the floor, watching every single movement his fingers made. I was mesmerized by the sound.”
- Mike Mettler || 5/15