March 18, 2022
The Guitar Sanctuary
Review by David Simers
Photos by Monica Muil, Texoma Blues Society
Mike Zito Brings The Rockin' Blues To The Guitar Sanctuary
“That was absolutely incredible!” was the consensus of everyone who saw the Maylee Thomas Band and Mike Zito concert at the beautiful Guitar Sanctuary. The full crowd filled the venue early to see Maylee and her tight band perform a much-too-short set of original songs. The music was a combination of Maylee's golden voice, meaningful lyrics by Maylee and husband/guitarist George Fuller, and emotion that filled the souls of every patron in attendance or watching on live-stream.
The polished set began with “I'm Free” and the diva's full-bodied voice and energy she emitted all night long. She and George, also the Mayor of McKinney, told the genesis of each song, which made the lyrics even more special. They traded quips, playful digs and mutual love all night, and it shined through.
The musical notes perfectly accompanied her voice on power ballads as dancing, rocking out and a genuine love of life lifted the audience. Personal lyrics on “Crazy's What I Need” were mesmerizing and the guitar solo led a jam that also segued into “Feelin' Alright.”
Then off came the hat. When Maylee's hat comes off, the head-banging and hair-tossing starts, and the positivity and stage presence turns it into a night to remember. The band then brought out Mike Zito to finish their set with a duet on “Soulshine.” Their voices meshed well, the guitar solos were thrilling and they received a well-earned ovation.
After a short break, Mike Zito and his band came out and immediately set the tone with “One More Train To Ride,” a great opening number that engaged the crowd right away. The wonderful Lewis Stevens on keyboards started a boogie jam that continued throughout the concert. They seamlessly transitioned to country/boogie to blues to rock and the audience was thrilled with the ride. Zito's guitar slinging was a highlight of every song and he had as much fun playing as everyone else did listening.
The back-line shined all night with Matthew Johnson on drums and Doug Byrkit on bass. They all showed their musical chops on the humbling song, “Presence Of The Lord,” with Zito fingering the fret for a lengthy solo that turned the audience into head boppers and toe tappers. Rocking blues continued as Stevens, an original member of the Freddie King Band, matched Zito with rocking solos. “Love Her With A Feeling” was a hard blues song where Mike absolutely shredded the axe before turning it into a kick ass jam where the whole band kicked it into a higher gear. Johnson pounded the kit and Byrkit thumped the bass while Stevens tickled the keys to make a musical memory for the audience.
Mike Zito, a transplanted Texan, paid tribute to his adopted state with a hard blues song by the late, great Johnny Winter, “Life Is Hard.” Again, Stevens shined and Zito displayed great tone along with rapid fire stroking to honor one of the finest blues guitarists ever. That led into “Judgment Day” a hard blues song with heavy notes and included Led Zeppelin's “Too Much Love” and a jam session that made heartbeats rise.
The band finished with “Gone To Texas,” a great ending song that segued into The Allman Brothers music. Again, the head bangers and toe tappers were joined by the neck strutters to end the set. If Mike thought he was going to leave without an encore, though, he was sadly mistaken. The crowd didn't give him the option of returning to the dressing room and then clapping until he came back. They kept him on stage and Zito and band delivered a rocking and raucous version of “Fortunate Man” that lasted a few minutes. It was still over too soon, but the audience members were spent with emotion.
Mike Zito and the rest of the band stayed around and signed autographs, took photos and chatted with anyone and everyone who stayed late. He's personable and approachable and you love to see someone like that succeed. He puts on a terrific show that needs to be seen and puts out wonderful albums that need to be heard.
Special thanks to Brian Meador of the Guitar Sanctuary for being so accommodating and helpful and to Monica Muil of the Texoma Blues Society for providing great photographs of the event. Check out the Guitar Sanctuary website as new shows are always being added.