BIBLE HILL – Before Gregg Rolie played a note on his legendary Hammond organ on Saturday night, the audience had already begun beckoning for the classics.
“Black Magic Woman! Black Magic Woman!” one fan shouted from the front of the stage that was erected on the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition grounds in Bible Hill.
Rolie did not disappoint from the get-go, kicking off with the 1969 classic “Evil Ways.” He held the crowd in the palm of his hand from the first line of the hip-swaying, Latin rock tune and kept them there for nearly two hours.
The former lead singer of Santana and an original founder of Journey, Rollie kept the crowd, estimated to be several thousand, hot.
“Thank you all for joining me on this balmy, old night,” he said with a laugh. “I’m from Texas man, I’m straight up freezing here.”
Weather aside, Rollie and his band were happy to be in Canada – as evidenced by the Labatt Blue can on top of guitarist Rocket Richotte’s amplifier.
Earlier in the day, crowds began to pile in to reserve spots in the field for the big show. Among the crowd was Gary Johnson, a longtime blues fan with an old school connection to the concert.
“I used to skip school and go see Dutch Mason play at the Wyse Owl in Halifax all the time,” he laughed. “Those boys gave me my education, the only one I needed at the time.”
Near the front of the stage, a burly man in a Hawaiian shirt set up shop with his lawn chairs before the show got underway. A distinct accent overrode his tale of how he came to be in Truro for the weekend.
“I guess it’s easier to show you who I am than tell you,” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out an FDNY badge emblazoned with the American flag and the name ‘Phil Weiss.’
“I grew up in the blues Mecca, man – New York City,” Weiss said. “The city was all about live music with people like B.B. King and places like CBGB’s.”
With the crowd piling in, the night got underway with Garrett Mason and Friends, followed by James Cotton and Darrell Nulisch, before Rollie’s fellow Texan Doyle Bramhall II took the stage.
Bramhall, son of Stevie Ray Vaughn collaborator Doyle Bramhall Sr., exuded a Hendrix vibe with his left-handed Fender Stratocaster, neon guitar strap and floral scarves. The trio rocked the stage, launching into extended jam after extended jam. Nobody was upset when the band wrapped up its set 10 minutes over schedule.
During the set-up, concert founder David DeWolfe came out on stage to give his thanks to emcee Terry Parsons, before turning to the crowd.
“And without you guys, all of you, we wouldn’t be able to do this year after year,” he said. “Thank you.”