If anyone has ever doubted that seeing a live show is the best way to experience music, I would like to take them to see John Németh in an intimate venue and watch them change their mind. Németh may not be a household name – yet – but he should be as he is a hell of a singer, songwriter, and harmonica player that knows how to squeeze every nuance of emotion from both of his instruments.
Backed by The Blue Dreamers, a three-piece band that is comprised of Johnny Rhoades on guitar; Danny Banks on drums; Matthew Wilson on bass and guitar; and all three providing backing vocals, the group took to the stage at the Tin Pan and promptly launched into a soulful two-hour set that ran the gamut from doo wop harmonies, to funky dance tunes, and of course a whole mess of blues.
Wearing a blue jump suit that looked like mechanics’ overalls, a watch cap, and very cool sunglasses, Németh and the band started off with Long Black Cadillac, a song off of their newest album, Feelin Freaky. Most of the songs this evening are in support of the album, but even though most of the crowd wasn’t familiar with the songs, they were most enthusiastic and greeted each song with prolonged applause.
The number was slow and it almost seemed like he was feeling out the crowd trying to see what will be the best buttons to push. It needn’t have worried, everyone was quickly into the show thanks to his deep resonant voice and his solid harp playing.
They quickly followed up with a couple of more songs from the new album; Rainy Day and Under The Gun. Instead of breaking up each song with crowd banter, Németh allowed his music to speak for him. After getting the crowd worked up, he did take a few seconds to announce that it was time to play some “Cold Blooded Blues,” and the band launched into an extended song that included a killer guitar break that caused the audience to break out in sustained applause.
That was followed by Sooner Or Later You Learn and County Boy. The latter song featured an absolutely inspired harp break and a solid guitar break that really lit the audience on fire. Country Boy segued nicely into My Sweet Love and the ballad really touched the crowd.
Now it was time for the group to kick up the funk factor with You Really Do Want That Woman which made the audience want to hit the non-existent dance floor.
Now, after about 45 minutes, Németh pulled his sunglasses off and explained that he traded a cheap pair of “Mississippi Truck Stop glasses for these,” which prompted a deep voice to ask what he would trade for the jumpsuit. Németh replied that it would have to be something that would get him out of it, and “Buddy, you don’t have that…”
When the laughter died down, the group performed Testify My Love with its beautiful harmonies and doo wop flavor. It was a gorgeous song.
From there the sunglasses when back on and the band got mighty funky with I’m Funkin Out and Get Offa That Butt and moving into the hard rocking I Can’t Help Myself. The band slowed down just long enough for Németh to change harps (picking up a rocking chromatic) and tear up a version of Bad Luck Is My Name.
While it was sneaking up on time for the band to call it a night, they were still flying high on adrenaline and the audience was eating it all up. Wilson dropped his bass and picked up a guitar and the band kicked off the audience inclusive S-T-O-N-E-D, before ending the set with a funny song about temptation, Do You Really Want That Woman which was a callback to an earlier song. Anyone who has ever made a living by working the road should be able to identify with that one.
After a quick exit and return for an encore, Németh and the Blue Dreamers played the high energy Feelin Freaky and then were joined by Richmond Harp Ace Li’l Ronnie for a smoking version of Mother In Law Blues.
All in all it was another great show for the Tin Pan. The intimate setting puts every seat on top of the action and the acoustics are great. I’ve had a chance to catch several shows there recently and I have enjoyed the setting, ambiance, and the variety of performers they are bringing to Richmond.
As far as Németh’s new album is concerned, I wish I could tell you a release date. He currently does not have a date scheduled, so make sure you catch him live so you can pick up one. And if anyone can tell me why he’s not headlining major festivals, I would love to hear the reason. As a performer, Németh and friends put on a great live show and I can’t wait to catch him again somewhere down the road.
(Portrait of John Németh by Aubrey Edwards for his website and used by permission.)