I recently drove two hours to see a show at the Cotton Club in Atlanta. John was performing along with many other acts on the Nuttstalk '97 tour. After sitting through many inspiring but tiresome funk bands, John finally took the stage. Along with Norwood Fisher on bass, and some other guy on drums, the three of them blindly played through 4 or 5 songs while John slurred and brashly chuncked out chords on his candy-apple red vintage stratocaster through a Marshall halfstack. John's finger movements reflected his stage presence, rough and sluggish. At the start of each song, John would strum a couple of melodies out on his guitar, in a way that the others in the band might catch on to what was supposed to come next. It was sad and thrilling at the same time to witness, who I believe is (or was) one of the most underrated and underestimated guitar players of my generation, John, regresed into such a fractured shell of what he had once matured into. To have written such inspiring music in the past, this performance was not quite what I had expected. His shaggy mop-top, long sleeves and black sunken eyes looked quite out of place for someone who once never wore a shirt and always kept an oddly shaven head along with a energetic glow. It truely looked as if the life had been sucked out of the guitar player. After the set, John quickly exited the stage without speaking a word, almost as nervously as he had taken the stage. I can relate.
In no way am I talking down to the performance, John had taken the time to tour this far and put on the show in which I somehow oldly enough, enjoyed. One thing though, I wish that John would have signed something a little more coherent on my strat pickguard other than a bunch of circles, was this because he was so inebreated, or just mocking his stardom? (He is probaly sick of dealing with people such as myself).
The set John played later on with Thelonious Monster was great. I actually saw John smile. I hope that John figures out whatever it is that is haunting him. My prayers are with him. He is one of the most honest musicians that we have left.