Not only did Gregg Rolie help both Santana and Journey become multi-platinum acts, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of the latter. The keyboardist/singer now calls Central Texas home, so it makes sense his show Wednesday at the One World Theatre differed little from a gig at the Saxon Pub – intimate, bluesy, and tastefully understated.
Playing piano and appearing with blues guitar great Alan Haynes, bassist Sticky Lopez, and drummer Ron Wickso, the bandleader performed reworked versions of songs he sang that became famous.
“What if Jimmy Reed wrote ‘Evil Ways’ instead of Willie Bobo?,” he wondered.
He and the band answered that rhetorical question by running through a slinky version of the tune, with six-string master Haynes taking welcome liberties with his guitar.
“You can tell this is a serious gig,” Rolie quipped at one point.
A couple of early Journey tunes and a new song, “If I Went Home,” about leaving the band – started 30 years ago and recently completed – found the quartet stepping away from the blues and into rock ballad territory. Mid-set, the still very fit and young looking Rolie took some questions from the audience.
He, and the crowd, got a surprise when an older gentleman stepped up and introduced himself as the person who drove him to meet Carlos Santana for that first gig in Northern California in the late Sixties. Rolie also told an abbreviated version of the time he went out with Janis Joplin.
“I found out she could drink way better than me,” he laughed.
The set ended with a stark “Black Magic Woman” and an encore that included a nearly Southern rock version of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” It was a relaxed and entertaining a gig. Rolie’s obviously absorbed the Austin music aesthetic very well.
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