Saturday, March 5th, 2005
I’d been waiting to see Steve Earle live for quite a while now, so having to stand outside the Palais Royale in the cold for forty minutes wasn’t that bad… but it wasn’t good, either. But eventually the huge lineup worked its way into the venue, to which it was my first time visiting. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all – it was far less… glamorous? than I was expecting. Basically a banquet hall that seemed much smaller than its 1250 capacity would imply.
One upside of having to wait so long to get in was that it made the wait inside for the show to start seem that much shorter. Opening act Allison Moorer took the stage promptly at 9:15 and played a surprisingly short solo acoustic set. It was interesting to see her perform in that format since the last couple times I saw her, it was with a full rock band. I think I actually preferred her solo, it kept the focus on her amazing voice. She wrapped up her set after just a half hour, but it certainly wasn’t her last appearance of the night as she took vocals on a number of Earle’s songs.
Taking the stage to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, Steve Earle & The Dukes showed up ready to play – and for the next two and a half hours, play they did. Starting out with the title track from his latest The Revolution Starts… Now and segueing right into “Home To Houston”, the Dukes were a finely-tuned rock machine from the word go. The tone of the night was unmistakably political, drawing heavily from the last two albums including Revolution in its entirety, but Earle was careful to play to all parts of his audience with a middle set heavy with “chick songs” (his words, not mine), a bluegrass number, a whack of covers (The Beatles’ “Revolution”, Townes Van Zandt’s “Brand New Companion”, George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity”, The Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia”, the last three of which featured Allison Moorer on vocals) and of course the Skinny Steve Earle (Mark 1) classics like “Copperhead Road”, “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied”, “Guitar Town”, though those were mostly saved for the encore. He was going to give the yahoos what they wanted, but they were gonna have to wait. And as an aside, I was pleased to see Steve has joined the cult of the Jazzmaster, strapping one of those on for much of the night alongside his Epi Casinos and Gretsches. The man has sublime taste in guitars.
But of course, when you see a Steve Earls show, you’re not just getting the music. It was 40 minutes in before he broke out the first of several monologues – I won’t call them banter because they were obviously well prepared in advance – about revolution, politics, praise for Canada, you know – the usual. So while the content was predictable, it was still earnest and inspiring (unless you were a righty who just wanted to hear “Copperhead Road”, then it was probably annoying but that’s your tough beans). He actually didn’t talk as much as I’d expected or wanted, he’s a very entertaining and engaging speaker, but maybe he got a lot of that out of his system at his CMW lecture earlier in the day. I would have liked to hear him go off on Kim Campbell, though.
Thankfully, while the aesthetics of the Palais Royale may have been a little disappointing, the sound wasn’t – everything came through loud and clear and the sightlines were okay though the crowd was unusually tall. Actually, they were just plain unusual. With the banquet hall-ish venue, it was like a redneck wedding. I saw people drinking to excess, smoking up, getting into fights and generally being rowdy and rude. I’ve never been unceremoniously shoved aside at a show so many times in my life. It’s a whooole different sort of concert ettiquite at these shows, lemme tell ya. But I do thank them for making me feel really young for a change. Median age of the crowd must have been around 40-something. But except for the occasional jostle, no one really bugged me excessively. Except for the guy standing beside me who thought he was edifying everyone around him but declaring very loudly, “He’s a troubadour! A hardcore troubadour!”, over and over again. He ran out of material after a little while and settled for being one of the really loud “Whoo!!!!” guys. Dick.
No photos. Though I did smuggle the camera in, I really wasn’t in the mood to fight my way through the crowd up to the front, so I took, as they say, the night off. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy the music.
It’s a special “goodbye” issue of CBC Radio 3 web magazine this week as they fold up shop after 105 issues. Publicairwaves.ca reports on the official reasoning for folding the publication and Soulshine ponders just what it means. Who knows, maybe the new site, in whatever form it eventually takes, will be just as good or better. But in the meantime, we’ll just be a little sad.
It’s been blogged everywhere already, but it’s good so I’ll join the pile-on. Superman is a dick.
np – A Girl Called Eddy / A Girl Called Eddy