It has to be exciting to watch a star being born, and that's how the people who saw Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble's stunning show in 1983 at Toronto's tiny El Mocambo club must have felt. Live at the El Mocambo captures the majesty of muscular, sweaty blues-rock in an intimate setting -- in the way that, some might say, God intended. Live in Austin, Texas is a strong compilation of the band's two Austin City Limits performances, but Live at the El Mocambo blows it away in terms of hunger and raw power. Vaughan, bassist Tommy Shannon, and drummer Chris Layton open with the fine instrumentals "Testify" and "So Excited." Then Vaughan really hits his stride and uncorks a perfect cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." "Pride and Joy" remains the best example of Vaughan's talent for combining a catchy melody with snappy licks. The fierce "Texas Flood" is truly mind-blowing -- Vaughan's playing is splendid, but he also tosses in some fancy showmanship by playing his guitar behind his back. "Hug You Squeeze You" is a playful tune that should have been lifted and placed on an album, perhaps on one of the "greatest hits" collections. Vaughan pays tribute to Hendrix again with "Third Stone from the Sun"; he thrashes on his famously mangled sunburst Stratocaster and coaxes unholy noises out of it. It's as if Pete Townshend took possession of him in that moment. During the first encore, "Lenny," Vaughan demonstrates his capacity for subtlety, foreshadowing the In Step favorite "Riviera Paradise." The DVD includes interviews with Shannon and Layton. One anecdote relates how Vaughan once became terribly upset when he learned he was headlining a concert instead of opener B.B. King.
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams