NEWPORT - A patch of gloomy weather and a little bit of a flash flooding wasn’t nearly powerful enough to stop the hundreds of rock’n’roll fans who flocked to the Newport Yachting Center on Friday from having a bluesy, beer-soaked good time; if anything it drove them all the wilder. This month’s fifth Newport Waterfront event, fittingly entitled The Classic Rock Rewind, united five of yesteryear’s most prominent and talented performers including Savoy Brown leader Kim Simmons, Leslie West, otherwise known as the frontman of the unmeasurably influential riff-kicking trio Mountain, Rick Derringer of The McCoys fame and the legendary albino bluesmen brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter to round out the lineup. The musicians of the quintuple bill boast a total of four Grammy Awards as well as three separate performances at the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.
Kim Simmons was the first of the seasoned rockers to take the stage that evening. The years separating Simmons’ ‘60s commercial heyday from the present era have done nothing to diminish the soulful guitar theatrics that burst forth in a steady stream from his Gibson Flying V and vintage Marshall stacks; Simmons cranked out livelier, shreddy-er reinterpretations of Savoy Brown cuts “Hellbound Train” and “Tell Mama”. He seemed awed by the sheer number of music lovers that filled the tent-covered stage of the Yachting Center, even saying between sets “Look at all of you! And here we were after the rain thinking nobody would come out tonight!” How wrong you were, Kim.
Leslie West and Rick Derringer followed the first set, each barrelling through their signature songs “Mississippi Queen” and the ironically ubiquitous “Real American”, the latter having been employed as a signature theme song by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Hillary Clinton as Derringer deftly pointed out before rocketing into an eight-minute multi-solo version of the ‘80s hit.
Attempting to photograph multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter during his on-stage performances is quite a difficult task; the hyperactivity that exudes from Winter more than makes up for his skin’s clinical lack of melatonin. The 65-year-old betrayed considerable years by literally sprinting back and forth from synthesizer to drum set to saxophone, only then to grab a Hammond electric organ with a mobile strap and stalk around stage during “Frankenstein” for an added showmanship bonus. His crowd-pleasing setlist featured the instrumental hallmark named for the misunderstood scientist alongside ‘70s anthem “Free Ride” interspersed with a liberal helping of classic blues covers as well a scat/guitar-bass-drum solo battle between he and his backing band. The result was momentous. Most musicians half Winter’s age fail to muster a even fraction of his energy.
The Johnny Winter performance was a different story. In stark contrast to the stage antics of his younger brother and tourmate, Johnny remained seated during his set and utilized only his iconic headless Bluesmaster guitar, a weapon undoubtedly suited to its wielder. Where Edgar’s performance a tropical lightning storm, Johnny’s was a slow-churning behemoth of a Nor’easter. In the style of a blues player that’s been there since the days of Muddy Waters and B.B. King, each note that Johnny played seemed to carry its own individual weight, befitting the cloud-speckled pink sunset that blanketed the wharf with a semi-haunting resonance. Winter performed several tracks off of his Johnny Winter And record, but it was during his covers that he really showed the crowd how he had achieved his status as one of the greatest and most lauded guitarists of all time. He opened with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and closed with extended version of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimmie Shelter” and “Jumping Jack Flash” for which the other four headliners of The Classic Rock Rewind joined him on stage.
Artists to be featured in future Newport Waterfront Events include k.d. Lang, Kevin Hart and The Fab Four - The Ultimate Tribute to The Beatles. For more information visit www.newportwaterforntevents.com  or visit the box office at 4 Commercial Wharf in Newport, Rhode Island.