Jonny Lang Brings Riffs and Eye-Popping Passion to the Zoo

Music in the Zoo host’s Jonny Lang

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MIM62718 CP 9 e1530372629459

Last updated on July 2nd, 2018 at 06:45 pm

Like any child before me, summer was not complete without a trip to the zoo. I remember my 8-year-old-self waking up early and getting to pretend to be Jack Hanna for the day, walking around the exhibits and noticing the elephants, monkeys, penguins oh my…even camels; getting closer than I ever had before.

The smells and sounds were jaw-dropping, something I could never experience while reading a book or watching television. Just as jaw-dropping as asking my mom, “Why are those camels sitting on one another and moving that way?” She turns to me and responds, “Exercise! Let’s go see the giraffes.”

Photo by Chris Schorn

Stubbornly falling for her answer, we rushed off to the next exhibit. Not realizing the entrainment value most individuals get out of those “exercise” sessions, the day concluded without any more sightings. Just as quickly as we moved away from the camels, my interest in the zoo unfortunately faded. Before I knew it, I had not been to the zoo in 10 years. Luckily, Jonny Lang was booked for a concert as a part of Music in the Zoo series at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, which ended my drought.

Photo by Chris Schorn

At the prime age of 37, Jonny Lang (Jon Gordon Langseth Jr.) still mesmerizes crowds with help from his band Barry Alexander (drums), James Anton (bass), Tyrus Sass (keyboards) and Zane Carney (rhythm guitar). The unforgettable guitar solos, vocal abilities and facial expressions have cemented a solid fan base for the last two decades.

Picking up a guitar at the age of 12 (1993) in Fargo, North Dakota, Jonny started to explore the world of music. Playing his own renditions of major hits while developing his own bluesy style, he quickly got recognized. He had his own record deal by the age of 14 and released a multi-platinum record Lie to Me at the age of 15.

With much success comes struggles. Jonny had a period of alcohol and drug abuse in the early 2000’s which almost derailed his career. He found asylum by converting to Christianity, which helped stop his abuses and led him to explore the gospel-rock genre.

Photo by Chris Schorn

With much success, again, in gospel rock, he has returned to his rock-influenced bluesy roots with his latest album, Signs. His following hasn’t lessened a bit. His performance packed the 1,450 Weesner Family Amphitheater almost to the brim Wednesday night. The crowd got to hear a taste of what Jonny Lang was all about, with opener Zane Carney.

Zane entrained the crowd as they filed in by the hundreds. He utilized ear-popping guitar solos and meaningful words, playing through his set list and briefly explaining his relationship to Jonny. The two have known each other since Zane was 12. He rounded out his set, then it was Johnny’s turn.

Photo by Chris Schorn

Coming out to a crowd screaming and leading off with a rasp in his voice which makes him one of the most unique voices I have ever heard. He covers the musical scale with such uniqueness that no artist could replicate.

Photo by Chris Schorn

Song after song passes and it feels like you reading a book. With each guitar solo, you think the song is done, nope. I have never seen an artist spend what felt like 10 minutes performing each song with the passion and effort he puts into each song is truly remarkable.

In closing, my most recent trip to the zoo was not one I will forget thanks to Jonny Lang. His passion, effort, and vocal abilities caught me off guard and made it an unforgettable show. The next time, I have to answer the question “Why are those camels sitting on one another and moving that way?” I will be able to answer, “exercise, have you heard of Jonny Lang before?”

Set List:

  1. Don’t Stop (For Anything)
  2. Signs
  3. A Quitter Never Wins
  4. Snakes
  5. Rack ‘Em Up
  6. Red Light – Everything Is Going to Be Alright
  7. Living for the City
  8. Still Rainin’
  9. Last Man Standing


  1. Bring Me Back Home
  2. Lie To Me

Written by Travis Meier

Black coffee drinking traveling photojournalist based in NE Mpls!


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