By Jennon Bell   Published Aug 27, 2005 at 8:54 AM

{image1}Is the phrase "melodic screaming" an oxymoron? You certainly wouldn't consider the adjectives complimentary, but if you were at The Pabst Theater last night to witness the Jonny Lang experience, you'd understand exactly what I mean. Jonny Lang, the blues guitar virtuoso, can make such dichotomies blend perfectly.

Watching Lang perform is a bit like witnessing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Even if he sounds more like a grizzled blues veteran with the raspy, hard-living vocal chords to match, Lang still flashes the boyish smile after each song, and shyly thanks the crowd. Other than "Good night!" and "How are all you doing tonight?" Lang kept his lips zipped.

Perhaps he was preserving his voice, because those vocal chords got a workout. Deftly working the octaves like he does the strings of his guitar, Lang can make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight one minute, while soothing and cooing romantically the next.

Lang exploded into the music world much as he did on the Pabst's stage: a baby-faced kid with a voice that packs a punch. Bursting onto the scene at 13 to equal parts praise and astonishment (How can a voice like that live in a kid that this?!) and a Grammy nomination at 19, "Kid" Jonny Lang felt pigeonholed into the genre, destined to be forgotten. He took four years off to work on his brand of music, and boy, has the "Kid" grown up. At a mature 24, Lang seems to fit into his own musician's skin now, playing a emotional set rife with pop, rock, emo and jazz infusing his trademark blues performance.

Although the nearly two-hour set was perfectly tight in all the right places, some highlights warrant mentioning. The hauntingly harmonious "Turn Around" quieted the rowdy, back-talking crowd, while Lang's debut "Lie to Me" brought the crowd to its feet, screaming and whistling with excitement. An uptempo version of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" was fresh and creative, while "Wedding Day" remains my favorite for the sweet lyrics and thoughtful delivery.

Opening for Lang was Susie Suh, a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. Suh also has the face of an angel, and the throaty, sultry voice of a Manhattan lounge singer. Think Fiona Apple without the ennui, and a cute, funny personality to boot.