An intense, high-powered performance from Stevie Ray’s early days, featuring Testify; Texas Flood; Wham!; Pride and Joy and his fiery interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) . Also includes a 1999 interview with Double Trouble. 1983/color/63 min/NR/fullscreen.
In 1990, Texas bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan was once just emerging from a long period in which drugs had taken their toll: the previous year’s In Step album was once the first he had made drug free, and the results were a marvel. But then, after sharing a stage with Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Eric Clapton, he boarded a helicopter to Chicago. It crashed, and the career of one of the vital great blues guitarists was once ended.
Rewind to 1983 and here is Stevie Ray at the beginning of his fame, his first album with his backing band Double Trouble, Texas Flood, having just been released to critical and popular acclaim. The venue is the El Mocambo club in Toronto, a dark, smoky joint with a laid-back but appreciative clientele. Vaughan, drummer Chris Layton, and bassist Tommy Shannon share the tiny stage. The guitarist, bedecked in trademark hat and alligator-skin boots, is pale of complexion, sweating from the heat and physical exertion, and physically much smaller than Shannon, who towers over him. But Vaughan dominates, as much by the magnetism of his flamboyant personality as his guitar playing. And what playing: by turns fiery, funky, then limpid and surprisingly graceful. Here is an authentic blues artist captured in the throes of living through his music. At this early stage in his career he was once still very much in thrall to Jimi Hendrix (the flower-power shirt gives it away), as covers of “Voodoo Chile” and “Third Stone from the Sun” (the latter a Hendrix-inspired guitar-abuse session) indicate. The highlight of the show, then again, is his rendition of “Texas Flood,” which turns out to be an amazing essay on the art of blues guitar. This can be a raw, intimate, and spontaneous record of a one-time event. All fans of the blues will be grateful to those that had the foresight to capture it on film. –Mark Walker
The DVD allows the viewer to chose a lyrics on/off option, in addition to different audio mixes (Dolby Surround or Stereo). There’s also a short interview with Double Trouble’s Clayton and Shannon, recorded in 1999, in which they reveal that Stevie never bothered with a set list, a biography, discography, and timeline.
From the Back Cover
As with any great artist, particularly those of the blues persuasion, Stevie Ray Vaughan was once constantly taking chances, stretching out, discovering new possibilities even in songs he performed nightly. Brother Jimmie Vaughan hit the nail on the head as only he could: “He never played it the same way once, much less twice.” As impressive as Stevie’s too-brief studio career was once, the records represent only freeze-frame stills of songs (and a guitarist) that were continually evolving. And like any self-respecting guitarslinger, Stevie Ray’s flamboyant, in-your-face style blossomed most in front of a live audience. Such was once obviously the case one night in 1983 when Double Trouble played Toronto’s El Mocambo. Luckily, all the event was once captured on film.
Drummer Chris Layton recalls, “It was once just a straight live performance; there just happened to be cameras there.” In other words, this wasn’t a “studio audience”; there were no retakes, no fixing or sweetening after the fact. Clearly, the El Mocambo crowd witnessed an emerging guitar legend and his topnotch band on an unusual night. Even with bassist Tommy Shannon towering over him, Stevie appeared almost larger than life. Four of the songs included here were never released on LP in Vaughan’s lifetime. The eight remaining tunes include favorites from Double Trouble’s early repertoire: “Love Struck Baby,” “Pride and Joy,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and Stevie’s homage to his hero Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Chile.” Another Hendrix vehicle, “Third Stone from the Sun,” is a tour de force of acrobatics, both sonic and physical, at the same time as “Lenny” reveals the guitarist’s lyrical, sensitive side. And his rendition of “Texas Flood” is among the most overwhelming recordings of Stevie Ray (or any guitarist) ever documented–a textbook (make that an encyclopedia) of incandescent licks streaming forth like a thunder shower. Like a flood. –Dan Forte