Monday, March 25, 2013

Emmylou/Rodney and Richard at the Orpheum

There’s lots I have a hard time describing sufficiently well about the concert we saw on Saturday night, 3/23 at the Orpheum.  It was Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (with band), with Richard Thompson (with trio) opening.  These are three iconic musicians and three of my favorite musicians ever.

It was a Saturday night and the time slipped by, then we drove into the city quickly and grabbed a bite to eat in a Government Center bar before the show … I think most of the other people in the bar were going to the show too because it had been packed but then cleared out when opening time approached.  Walked the few blocks over to the Orpheum, my first time seeing a show there in over 35 years and it apparently hadn’t changed a bit, it was exactly like my memories of a cramped, worn-out old hole-in-the-wall theater and it was so full of people you could barely move through the crowd.  Emmylou mentioned how much she liked it, but from the audience perspective you might get some argument.  We ran into some country/folk friends there we hadn’t seen for a while, grabbed a couple of tall beers, and made it to our seats as the lights flashed and dimmed.

Thompson came out and was fantastic.  His trio was just incredible, with bassist Taras Prodaniuk providing just the thunder you want to back up Richard Thompson and singing some incredible harmony, and drummer Michael Jerome being the kind of acrobatic drummer people rave about, using his long limbs to pound those skins so fast he was a blur.  They played for maybe 45 minutes and did a number of songs from the new album such as Salford Sunday, Sally B, Good Things Happen To Bad People, and (thankfully!) Saving the Good Stuff For You.  His trio left him alone for 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, which of course brought down the house.  Richard never moves the guitar even when he’s playing the most incredible solos and never moves his expression even when he’s spitting out the most intense verbiage.  He was fantastic.

Then we got a break and soon Emmylou and Rodney came out (with lead guitar, pedal steel, drums, bass, and piano and with them strumming their killer melodies on acoustics, Rodney in a wide-brimmed black hat and Emmylou in the hair).  I had been a bit annoyed that we weren’t up front; even though I had been checking frequently for the tickets going on sale I’d been just a bit late getting them and we were relegated to maybe 25th row, orchestra right.  But I soon had to admit that if we’d been up front I may not have been able to take it.  Their sound was just a wave of perfect harmonious, funky, easy country-folk that washed over me and left me almost struggling for air.  Most of the others around me were hanging their jaws open and/or gasping for breath themselves; we were all in church listening to some of the saints whose teachings the church was founded on recite them in front of us.  OK, Emmy and Rodney are just people and that’s one of the things that make them such charming performers.  But I and seemingly everyone else around me, including some I testified with between sets, had been listening to this sound for years, and … well, I guess I’m past my ability to describe it again.

They played for well over 90 minutes, maybe two hours; here’s the set list.  There was not a moment of it that wasn’t over the top great, or 10 times as good as that:

  • Return of the Grievous Angel
  • Wheels
  • Pancho and Lefty
  • Earthbound
  • Till I Gain Control Again
  • Tragedy
  • Luxury Liner
  • Hanging Up My Heart
  • Invitation to the Blues
  • Dreaming My Dreams
  • Back When We Were Beautiful
  • Chase the Feeling (another fantastic Kristofferson song, maybe my favorite from the new record)
  • Black Caffeine
  • Spanish Dancer
  • Bluebird Wine (Rodney admitted that he'd re-written the first two verses a bit)
  • Old Yellow Moon
  • I Ain't Living Long Like This (with Richard Thompson; here’s a (low fidelity) performance of that song from earlier in the tour that may give you a hint how excellent this was)
  • Still Learning How To Fly
  • Leaving Louisiana In the Broad Daylight


  • I'll Be Your San Antone Rose
  • Love Hurts

Don’t take my word for what a surreal experience it was, read this Boston Globe review … it’s rare to hear a professional music reviewer gush as much as I do!

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