Live: Steve Earle w/the Dukes & Duchesses, Houston
With a career spanning close to four decades, Texas singer/songwriter Steve Earle has grown into quite the renaissance man. Not only is he a musician and performer of the highest caliber, he can also claim to also be an accomplished author, playwright, actor and political commentator.
Even though Earle’s appearance at Houston’s House of Blues Wednesday night (7/6) was as a musician and bandleader, evidence of his other interests couldn’t help but creep in.
He was backed by a fine band called the Dukes and Duchesses which includes Earle’s wife Allison Moorer, guitarist Chris Masterson, violinist Eleanor Whitmore (Masterson’s wife), bassist Kelly Looney and drummer Will Rigby.
They opened with a series of songs from Earle’s new album I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, including the mandolin-driven “Molly-O” and hatin’-on-Bush screed “Little Emperor.” Earle’s “The Gulf Of Mexico,” about last summer’s Gulf oil spill, concluded with Earle declaring “Fuck BP!”
The first half of the show focused mainly on acoustic-based songs and it concluded with a three-song set from Moorer, who did her Academy Award-nominated “A Soft Place To Fall” (from the movie Horse Whisperer) and a soulful version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Roaring into the second half with “Copperhead Road” and the Irish jig “Galway Girl,” Earle displayed his deep catalog. He also talked a bit about his new novel, which has the same name as his new CD, and performed the Hank Williams song that gave both their titles. He also did a great version of “This City,” which closed out the first season of HBO’s series “Treme,” in which Earle did some acting.
It was at this point, nearly two hours into the show, when crowd chatter got so loud that it drowned out the between-song talking from the stage and a bit of the music. I’ve seen this before in Houston and I continue to be mystified by the number of assholes who pay a cover charge ($20 and up) just so they can go into a venue and talk while musicians perform live music.
Is this just a Houston phenomenon? Probably not – I’ve experienced it recently in Austin, where you wouldn’t expect this to happen. It just seems that otherwise reasonable adults go to these venues only to be “seen” and not to listen to music.
Anyhow, Steve Earle gave plenty of nods to the time he spent in Houston paying his dues – he did a fine cover of his mentor Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” as well as a rousing version of “Telephone Road” after telling how he came to see ZZ Top headline a show (with the likes of Willie Nelson, Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers as openers) in H-town’s Jeppesen Stadium.
Then, for the second encore, Earle plugged in and the band roared through a version of ZZ Top’s “Francene” and followed that with Earle’s own “Home To Houston,” a Creedence soundalike.
In all, Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses played a little longer than two and a half hours and left the audience (at least those who came for the music) still wanting more. After this show, I’m convinced that Steve Earle is the best roots rocker on the road right now – go see him play this summer, if you can.
YouTube: “Every Part Of Me” from House of Blues show (thanks to brettborah)
“Francene”/”Home To Houston”/”The Unrepentant”