“You ever heard of Jimmie Vaughan?”
That question started my morning out on the sand in front of the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel a week ago. A visiting couple was beyond ecstatic to tell me that they flew out to Hawaii with the sole purpose of watching Vaughan perform at Blue Note Hawaii. The blues legend was here for a two-show run.
As the lights went down that night in the venue, Jimmie Vaughan confidently stepped on stage with his slicked-back hair and trademark Tex-Mex Fender Strat in his hands. Accompanying him were Mike Flanigin on organ and Jason Corbiere on drums; veteran performers themselves, they rounded out the Jimmie Vaughan Trio, a musical powerhouse that hearkened a sound from a foregone era of Texas blues.
The night would pay homage to Vaughan’s life and legacy, and his own musical heroes that helped shape his career. With his band at his side, they played for over two hours with songs from Vaughan’s solo career, his previous band (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), as well as his favorite covers from decade’s past. Vaughan also took us back to a little spot called the Rome Inn in Austin, with a heartfelt rendition of the fan favorite, “Texas Flood,” in honor of his late brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Before breaking into a cover of the Phil Upchurch classic, “You Can’t Sit Down,” Flanigin sat behind the keys and recalled tales of Vaughan’s childhood. How he would ride his bike to the local Dairy Queen with a quarter in hand to play the song on the jukebox five times in a row. Vaughan has always been about the spaces between notes. There was a moment when the lights dimmed, he put the guitar to his side, and sang the ballad, “I’m Still in Love with You,” from his latest album, Baby, Please Come Home. The song was dedicated to his wife, who was smiling ear-to-ear behind me in the audience. As an added surprise was the guest appearance of Sue Foley, a prolific blues singer and guitarist from Canada, who traded solos with the Trio using her pink Fender Strat.
Towards the end of the show, the Jimmie Vaughan Trio played homage to The Fabulous Thunderbirds with their classic hit, “The Crawl.” With the audience on their feet and singing along, Vaughan lifted that Strat behind his head and summoned a flurry of notes I didn’t believe was humanly possible.
Music lovers of all ages got up off their seats. Mothers danced with their daughters in the aisles and couples embraced, twirling each other hand-in-hand. It was proof that, even after five decades, Jimmie Vaughan still has that fire burning inside and notes that have yet to be played. His Trio is no blues revival band, but a refreshing homage to a timeless genre sure to be playing for years to come. If the Jimmie Vaughan Trio is passing near your town (or even a string of remote islands a few thousand miles away), don’t miss it.