One of the more embarrassing moments of my journalistic career occurred when I touted guitarist Eddie Kirkland for his nonstop, high-energy performances, only to have him show up, sit in a chair, and play moody blues ballads and low-key shuffles all night–which is to say that Kirkland is both a supremely gifted and refreshingly unpredictable bluesman. Famous for his dynamic spectrum of tones, erratic tunings, and explosive barrages interspersed with metallic chording, he’s equally comfortable with the more subtle emotional ranges of postwar blues traditionalism. But Kirkland is not just a talented player, he’s also a consummate showman–for years he was known as the only bluesman who could play and run full tilt at the same time. At his most raucous, Kirkland, who came of age in Detroit in the 40s and early 50s, sometimes seems as if he’s straining to approximate the intensity many of his Chicago counterparts summon with less apparent effort. But at his best he’s a riveting performer capable of fusing emotional honesty, musical dexterity, and all-night-boogie endurance into a seamless and satisfying whole. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Rosa’s, 3420 W. Armitage; 342-0452. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tom McPherson.