Of the pioneer electric blues guitarists who emerged after World War II, only John Lee Hooker remains active. Like the recently deceased Lightnin' Hopkins and Muddy Waters, Hooker long ago created a distinctive style that has since become an essential part of the rock vocabulary. Part Delta blues, part Detroit boogie, Hooker's music was as effective as ever at the Wax Museum last night.
Backed by his fine five-piece Coast to Coast Blues Band, Hooker spent much of the evening reprising his best known material. His voice filled the spaces between the stop-time rhythms of "Boom, Boom, Boom" with a menacing growl and on the stark "Serve Me Right to Suffer," it took on a darkly somber and poignant tone. As always, Hooker's guitar playing was technically limited, but possessed undeniable beauty in its trademark economy and jagged tone, a sound often forcefully echoed by keyboard player Deacon Jones and saxophonist Nancy Wright.
Earlier, guitarist John Hammond opened with a fiercely percussive set of acoustic blues. Blowing a rack-mounted harmonica while his left foot beat out a steady tempo, Hammond underscored virtually every tune with great rhythmic vitality. These included "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Step It Up and Go," tunes that ordinarily receive considerably less aggressive treatment. Other highlights included a stirring slide guitar arrangement of "Drop Down Mama" and an emotionally taut version of Robert Johnson's classic lament "Kind Hearted Woman."