It was a slow morning and we were anxious to get up to Lowell in time to grab a prime patch of grass. The heat started soaring early and was pretty bad when we finally left the house. Not much traffic up to Lowell and we pulled up to John Street about 1:15. I parked while Sarah went looking for a spot on the lawn in Boardinghouse Park; I joined her with the blanket and we were amazed that we could put it down to claim a patch right to the left of the VIP section, basically second row left, in front of where the lead guitar would be. We were psyched! As mentioned, when we had seen Emmylou and Rodney in March it was overwhelmingly good and we were looking forward to being overwhelmed to a higher degree.
We immediately went looking for a place with really good air conditioning for a leisurely lunch ... the show wasn't scheduled to start until 7:30. We cruised around for a bit and almost fainted in the heat, then stumbled upon the Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street. They have seats on the sidewalk and they were in the shade on a quiet street, but even that was too much with the blaring heat. We went inside and they had great air conditioning, a great beer selection, and a really good lunch menu. I recommend the place enthusiastically (for lunch at least, though I assume dinner would be good too); Sarah had a crab Nicoise and I had a pan-seared tuna burger ... both fantastic and not expensive.
OK, left there and spent the afternoon in Boardinghouse Park, mostly in the shade. I took a nap, read, walked up to Dunkin's for iced coffee, ate some grapes, listened to Furthur from the night before, and chilled. A guy walked Emmylou's dogs through the park and cleaned up after them of course. The band came out to do the sound check and when Rodney emerged (looking like he'd just woken up and wearing your Dad's Bermuda shorts) he was hanging out near me to the left of the stage. I walked over and told him how much I had liked his music since 1979 and thanked him for it; we had a nice talk about the Orpheum in March, the current weather, and stuff. Emmy came out without her stage clothes/makeup also and politely asked the few of us there not to take pictures before the show ... but she was as beautiful as always anyway. There were a few afternoon showers but the time went by quickly. They set up Amy Black in front of the main band's stuff and her band did their sound check ... all set for the show!
Amy was playing with a different band than we'd seen her with before. She's recently moved down to Nashville and then back to Somerville, trying to kick start her singing career. She's got a new album in the can (Fall release??) and did a few songs from that. She was really good, opening with Dance Floor and One Time, doing a few of the new songs, and just impressing the heck out of us with her powerful voice ... she filled Boardinghouse Park for sure. One of her new songs, about her grandfather's love of Alabama, is top quality song-writing.
Break time and then Emmylou and Rodney came out as the sun started to go down and the temperature had dropped to the point where it was just a balmy summer evening rather than a blast furnace. They had timkered around with Millworker in the sound check (James Taylor's song about a young woman working the mills in Lowell), but didn't do that ... but they did do 26 straight songs without a break and the crowd was in heaven. We'd seen Emmylou from up close before, outdoors at the De Cordova in the 80s, up in Hampton Beach, and recently at the Green River Festival ... and of course we'd seen Rodney from up close at the Bull Run recently also. But this was a little piece of heaven to see them sing together from 15 feet away with a killer band in that pretty setting in the Lowell National Park.
They opened with what they called "the old stuff" and then did "the new stuff" ... as they had in Boston ... but then kept on playing songs old and new way beyond what they'd done back in March. Here's the list: Return Of the Grievous Angel, Wheels, Pancho and Lefty, Earthbound, 'Til I Gain Control Again, If I Needed You, San Antone Rose, Ashes By Now, Love Hurts, Luxury Liner, Red Dirt Girl, Rock Of My Soul, Darling Kate, Love Is All I Need, Hanging Up My Heart, Invitation To the Blues, Spanish Dancer, Chase the Feeling, Dreaming My Dreams, Back When We Were Beautiful, Still Learning How To Fly, Leaving Louisiana In the Broad Daylight, Ain't Living Long Like This, and Old Yellow Moon. How about that set list????? Just incredible stuff. And these were not done as a "greatest hits" medley; every song was given a full treatment and in particular Luxury Liner, Leaving Louisiana, and Ain't Living' Long went on forever with the proper searing lead guitar riffs.
Emmy was as gracious as ever about introducing songs (calling out Susanna Clark, Patty Scialfa, and Kate McGarrigle (but skipping Townes and Kris)), and Rodney was his self-deprecating, grinning self. There were all kinds of demons in the sound setup on a hot, humid night, and the PA was suddenly not working when they opened with the killer Grievous Angel, though they got it fixed soon. Emmy's in-ear monitor failed a couple of times and she looked angrily toward the engineers, but she smiled at us of course and shrugged it off.
The afore-mentioned killer band consisted of old colleagues Byron House on bass (he had 4 of them on stage and used them all, at different times that is), Steve Fishell on wonderful pedal steel and dobro, Jedd Hughes from Australia on lead (he had to wipe his brow after his drenching lead on Luxury Liner), Chris Tuttle on beautiful piano, organ, and accordion (Emmylou pointed out that their "new" songs shone with his accompaniment), and Gerry Rowe on excellent country drums.
So the list above is 24 songs, not 26 ... but even after they said Old Yellow Moon would be their last song, no one in the Park wanted to leave. We stood and applauded until they came back out, with Amy Black! Gee, what hadn't they done? Well how about Stars On the Water and then Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? People stayed up for these, dancing, singing, waving their hands like crazy people, and throwing their hats up in the air. Amy brought out Emmylou's dogs for a cameo, and then they all faded away into the night.
Emmylou commented during the show that she'd keep on doing this until she dropped because she loved it so much, and I hope to be there too!
Pictures taken by Sarah at:
- Emmylou and Rodney: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahebourne/sets/72157634706405766/
- Amy Black: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahebourne/sets/72157634706405770/
p.s. Furthur played Boston again that night and we were definitely bummed not to be there (especially after we heard they did Alligator, Eyes, and Dew!), but in all I think this show with Emmylou and Rodney was more enjoyable and will be a memory that sticks with me more than another Furthur show would have. That makes three nights in a row of music, now off to Rubblebucket tonight and then the Green River Festival this weekend!