Friday, November 16th, 2007
Sparkle And Shine
Around three or four years ago, I became fairly obsessed with the works of Steve Earle. I literally couldn’t go a day without spinning at least one of his albums, often more. While that obsession eventually faded to more rational levels, I’ve spent the last few days ratcheting up my SE quotient in anticipation of the Live At The Rehearsal Hall taping at the Bravo! studios last night.
Being ultra-keen and early scored me seats in the very front row, the second time I’ve been within a couple metres of Steve this year, the first being at SxSW in March (from whence this photo is taken – no pics at the taping, obviously). This was the second time I’ve been at a show taping – the first being Wilco on Austin City Limits – and this setting was quite different. Whereas at that one, we basically piled into the sizable auditorium, grabbed free beer and watched the show, this show was in considerably tighter quarters with no stage and we had to pre-record five different takes of applause footage before the show got started. Oh the wonder of television.
Also peculiar was the set list, or more specifically the order. Playing acoustically and with a backing DJ, Earle started off with nine of the twelve tracks from Washington Square Serenade before finishing off with a trio of classics – “Someday”, “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied” and “Copperhead Road” but when the show airs, those three will be the first three aired and then the new material. So essentially, the show’s intro will be our encore – I wonder how they’re going to cut that, since the old material naturally got the greatest response. On air, it’ll look like we got less interested. But I guess we’ll see how that plays when the episode airs on January 1, and be we I mean those of you with cable. I won’t get to see the camera add ten pounds to me.
As for the actual performance, well it was simply great. I’ve already said that I’m not sold on the folk-beats hybrid that Earle toys with on Serenade but hearing him deliver it live does make for a stronger argument than the record. When he opened with “Tennessee Blues”, I couldn’t help thinking how different it sounded in Austin back in March with just Steve on acoustic, all pensive and reflective and sounding a bit sad to be leaving his home. But with the loops thumping underneath and the tempo turned up, it sounded less like a farewell than a welcome to his new home – same song, different perspectives. The rest of the set was similarly lively and on the numbers that Allison Moorer came out to play on, well though Steve may have been correct in saying he was “overmarried” – they kind of look like a domestic sitcom couple – the obvious love and affection between the two as they played together was something to behold.
I don’t know how much of the between-song banter will make the final cut, but Earle is one of those performers who’d I’d pay money to hear talk, never mind play. He’s a fascinating and engaging speaker even if he does tend to recycle some of his material from show to show. I was a little surprised that his bit about needing to look out his front door and see a mixed-race, same-sex couple holding hands didn’t get aired but considering that he was in a city where that was not only common, but the couple could even be legally married, maybe he decided he was preaching to the choir.
I wonder when Earle eventually gets around to touring Serenade properly in the new year, if he’ll be keeping the current configuration or rearranging everything for a full band? He seemed pretty enamored with the sound he was getting last night but I don’t know how that’d translate in the much larger rooms he’d be playing. Time will tell and until he returns for a regular show, I’ll have the VHS of this show to keep me satisfied. ‘Cause one of you will tape it for me, right? Right? Surely someone out there still has a VCR?
And I should mention that Allison Moorer’s new album Mockingbird is out February 19. Harp has some details on the mostly-covers album, including the track list. Coincidentally, one of the covers is of Cat Power who herself is releasing a mostly-covers album a month prior on January 22. Matablog has more info on Jukebox including the fact that there’ll be a limited edition version with a second disc of five more covers.
Behold, the first preview track from American Music Club’s The Golden Age, out February 19. Look for North American tour dates in April and May.
AMC also appears on Hard To Find A Friend’s now-available holiday compilation, alongside folks like The Long Winters and Great Lake Swimmers. Eighteen songs, seven dollars, proceeds to Toys For Tots. And if you need more convincing, here’s the Long Winters’ contribution:
Nicole Atkins’ appearance on Letterman is being rerun tonight. An upside to the writers’ strike! You can watch it below but it looks and sounds much better on the telly proper. She’s at Lee’s Palace Sunday night.
Brooklyn’s White Magic will be at Sneaky Dee’s on December 3.
…And that’s my backlog of links cleared! Yay. Have a good weekend.