Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Steve Earle at Vicar Street

Steve Earle is one of the more interesting inhabitants of Planet Rock. He’s a gifted songwriter and an eclectic musician who’s successfully embraced rock, country, folk, bluegrass (his album "Mountain" with the Del McCoury band is one of his best) and more recently a bit of techno. He's also the author of a smart collection of short-stories (“ Doghouse Roses “). He’s a zealous pussy hound (married 7 times - for God’s sake Steve) and a one-time serious junky. He was rescued from a Texan hotel unconscious with a needle full of blood sticking from his arm – an adventure that led to a stint in prison. He’s also seriously engaged politically, which is often reflected in his song-writing.

I first saw him in the Stadium in the late 80s, he was a very long-haired, elegant, pencil-slim rocker who I remember doing a rousing version of the Sir Douglas Quintets "She's About a Mover". This is a far cry from the burly, bearded, authentic persona that he presents to the world today.

He did an acoustic set in Vicar Street last night accompanied by his current wife, the country singer Alison Moorer. I like an acoustic interlude at his concerts but not a whole gig – I think he needs the lift of a rock band around him. But we had great seats and he gave a decent performance with some virtuouso playing of guitar, steel guitar, mandolin and even a banjo. He looked tired at the start but got going on the crowd's enthusiasm and played for a generous 2 hours and 20 minutes. Moorer did a few numbers but her voice lacks character and she truly murdered the Bessie Smith classic "I Need Some Sugar in my Sugar Bowl" - not the sort of song a corn-fed mid-Western blonde should ever sing. The highlights of Earle's set were "Goodbye", "My Old friend the Blues" and that old chesnut "Billie Austin".