First there was Delta Blues, an acoustic style one step up from the slave songs of the 19th century. Then, there was Urban Blues, the electrified versions of Muddy Waters, B. B. King and others. These were followed by British Blue and American British Blues as musicians on either side of the Atlantic began to copy each other incessantly.
Singer-guitarist Johnny Winter is part of this latest blues generation -- a derivation based on several derivations. His show Friday night at the Ontario Theater was a demonstration of the glaring and garish deficiencies of this new style.
Backed by a drummer and bassist, Winter paraded around the stage in rock macho fashion, unleashing torrents of notes that had more to do with ego than emotion. His forced, bluesy vocals were interrupted constantly by extended guitar solos which sputtered on interminably.
On classics like "Hideaway" and "Johnny B. Goode," Winter seemed to be truly inspired -- he "screamed" his notes with precision and feeling. But the remainder of his performance was nothing more than an excuse to bolster his blues "image," with cliche piling upon cliche in a display that was less moving than monotonous.
Johnny Winter is a blues musician in only the most elastic sense.The older styles were a celebration of life and song. Johnny Winter's music is merely a celebration of Johnny Winter.