By now, every guitar fan worth his salt knows the story behind these two concerts by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival. Appearing in 1982, the boys were actually booed, but ended up winning over more important folks in the process. In 1985, they returned triumphantly as conquering heroes.
Let’s start with the 1982 show. A young SRV is clearly in command, and determined to do his thing regardless of crowd reaction. And that reaction is definitely mixed. The folks doing the booing were apparently upset because the day had been dominated by acoustic acts. They expected more of that. So imagine their surprise when the boys came out blazing with two loud, boisterous instrumentals, “Hideaway” and “Rude Mood,” followed by a version of “Pride and Joy” that about tears the front of your head off.
Yes, there were lots of boos. But there were also lots of cheers. In fact, by the time Stevie winds his way to a version of “Texas Flood” that is subtle and in your face at different points, there are plenty of folks hooting and hollering. My guess is the last part of the solo and the last verse being played behind his back didn’t endear the unknown guitarist to those who wanted things a little more laid back. They let him know it by the end, but so did those who liked it. The oddest part of this one for me was seeing Stevie pulling out a slide for a version of “Give Me Back My Wig.”
Of course, among those hanging out in Montreaux in ’82 were David Bowie and Jackson Browne. Bowie used Stevie on Let’s Dance, and the rest is history. After meeting the band there, Browne invited them to use his studio, free, to record the first record. So, like the documentary here says, it was a “success in disguise.”
That documentary, by the way, features very nice insights from Browne and John Mayer. Don’t laugh. The young hitmaker is a fine guitarist and SRV disciple who actually has done work with Double Trouble. Remembrances by Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon are excellent, too, especially a very funny story about the legendary bassist Larry Graham.
The disc of the ’85 concert is what you’d expect; excellent playing by the trio, plus newly recruited keyboardist Reece Winans. “Say When” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” are highlights. So are three terrific cuts with bluesman Johnny Copeland joining the proceedings. Great stuff.
But I do have one complaint. Apparently all the cameras except the long shot in back, wrapped it up before the encore. So we hear and see long shots of nice versions of “Life Without You,” “Gone Home,” and “Couldn’t Stand the Weather.”
Still, this is a must-have for fans of SRV. The sound is nice, the camera work is, for the most part, excellent. And it supplies nice insight into a part of rock and roll history. Put in its context, considering the music that was dominating the charts in the ’80s, it’s amazing this stuff was able to find a niche in a very narrow music field and make Stevie a guitar hero.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.