Jonny Lang has performed at the White House, Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, and House of Blues locations across the country. Now, Lang is about to add Mississippi State University's Riley Center in Meridian to that list.
Lang will perform at the Riley Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, with a pre-show party at 4:30 p.m.
Lang released "Lie to Me," a critically acclaimed multi-platinum album, one day before his 16th birthday in 1997 and earned his first Grammy nomination at 17. He won his first Grammy in 2007 for Best Rock Gospel Album for "Turn Around" amid a career spanning blues, rock and soul.
Lang has toured with the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, B.B. King and Sting and made appearances on "The Drew Carey Show," "The Tonight Show" and the film "Blues Brothers 2000." Clapton began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was signed to A&M Records three years later.
Dennis Sankovich, director of the Riley Center, said Lang is a double threat, an expert blues guitarist with a voice few would expect from a 30-year-old performer. Lang's accomplishments at such a young age are comparable to those of John Mayer, he said, but Lang plays a completely different brand of blues.
I think people will really be blown away by his singing and his playing," Sankovich said. "You can't believe that voice is coming from a young man. It just sounds like a seasoned blues performer. It's really perfect for the blues."
Sankovich said Lang is a good fit for Mississippi and its blues scene, with a ready-made audience, but he was unsure if Lang had ever performed in Mississippi before. For those reasons, Sankovich said, Riley Center staff have been looking to coordinate a visit from Lang for the past few years.
"We've been keeping an eye on his schedule, and everything seems to have worked out this year," Sankovich said. "I heard about him through the Eric Clapton guitar festival and saw his vignettes on the DVD. The last album that I saw of his was his live CD, and that's what got me really excited about bringing him here, was the energy on that CD."
Lang's appearance at the Riley Center is also the start of a new experiment for the Riley Center, Sankovich said. This is the Riley Center's first year with shows during the summer months of June, July and August, he said.
In previous years, Sankovich said, the spring season has ended with MSU's spring semester, because other presenters at the University of Mississippi, Delta State University, and Birmingham, Ala. have not hosted musicians in the summer, either. Sankovich said one of his main tools for bringing musicians to the Riley Center is coordination with these other presenters.
"The more other presenters are near us, the easier it is to coordinate tours," Sankovich said.
This year's summer shows are few and far between because they are new to the Riley Center, Sankovich said. The next summer performer at the Riley Center is five-time Grammy Award winning bass player Victor Wooten on July 20.
"If this works real well, we're planning to go to fill in a little bit more in those months," Sankovich said. "This is kind of the pilot year to see how it goes and what people's reaction is. It's just how it worked out this first year, and next year, we want to do more."
For those in Starkville interested in attending but concerned about a long nighttime drive back home, MSU is providing a shuttle service for up to 60 people, and will continue to do so for Riley Center performances throughout the summer.
Shuttles will leave at 4:30 p.m. from the north end of the Zacharias Village lot across from Griffis Hall on campus. Shuttle tickets cost $10 and can be requested by calling the Riley Center box office at 601-696-2200 before ordering concert tickets.