By Rhetta Akamatsu
Mike Zito is an exciting cat to watch! He and his band were in Atlanta kicking off his tour to promote his latest album, Make Blues Not War, which debuted in November at the #1 spot on the Billboard Blues Chart. They were scheduled to be at Darwin’s in Sandy Springs but since the new location is not quite ready Lindsay and Aiken, Darwin’s owners,’ arranged to present them at 5 Seasons Brewing Company instead.
There was a good crowd with a lot of the regulars in the Atlanta area blues community on hand, some new to Zito and some already revved up before the show even started! 5 Seasons provided good food and drink and everybody was happy and ready to be entertained. And Mike Zito and The Wheel certainly delivered on that!
For such a small band – just Zito, a drummer and a bass player, traveling light with minimal equipment, Zito and Thhe Wheel created a big sound. While we were there, they played mostly songs from the new album, beginning with the rip-roaring “Highway Mama” just to let everybody know they were getting rock with their blues! Zito is an amazing guitarist as well as vocalist and the three musicians are flawlessly tight.
Some highlights of the evening were Zito’s well-loved and award-winning “Pearl River,” a phenomenal jam on “Crazy Legs,” which for me is the song that proves this band is from Texas, and the absolute best part, “Make Blues Not War.” Zito followed his musical suggestion for more blues to solve the world’s conflicts with a spectacular guitar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” which was equal at least to the live Hendrix version, in my opinion.
The evening had one issue not related to the band. The event area at 5 Seasons is only heated by one heater and is really best for use in good weather. Luckily it was not terribly cold but at one point the heater was causing the guitars to overheat and Mike had to turn it off for a brief period shortly before the break. People were putting jackets on but the music trumped cold and I understand after the break the temperature returned to a more comfortable level. I joked to Darwin’s co-owner Jonathan Aiken that that did at least remind us all of the former beloved Darwin’s location, which also often had heating problems.
When not creating incredible music, Zito was friendly and had an easy way with the crowd. I met him before the show and he was warm and outgoing. If you get a chance to go see him, go. As one person commented about the show, “It’s always a good time when Mike Zito is in town.”