In April 2011, 42 years from the release of his debut album, Johnny Winter finally fulfilled his dream of playing in Japan. This live set recorded at Zepp Tokyo Music Hall was first released as a DVD in 2012, but now finds its way onto CD. There’s no shortage of live Johnny Winter material out there, particularly with the extensive Live Bootleg Series, so the novelty of the setting is the album’s main selling point.
The setlist has the comfortable familiarity of a favourite pair of shoes – the band opens with Freddie King’s Hideaway and the song selection includes Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working. The guitarist only really has one speed and that’s flat-out – he could have given The Ramones a run for their money for breakneck velocity. “Here’s some old-fashioned rock’n’roll for you,” says Winter before blasting into Johnny B Goode with an intensity and abandon that puts Marty McFly to shame.
Winter’s Gibson Firebird dominates the mix, always loud, proud and upfront. The band – guitarist Paul Nelson, bassist Scott Spray and drummer Vito Liuzzi – keep pace no matter how hard Winter drives them and his foot never leaves the accelerator. Don’t Take Advantage Of Me morphs into Gimme Shelter, before Winter jumps straight into a frantic run through of Bony Moronie. Live From Japan is short on surprises, but Winter kicks all kinds of ass on stage.