When he played a superb, solo open air gig at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park Bandstand in August last year, Steve Earle promised he would return to the city in 2015 with a blues album and a full band.
He was true to his word and hit town again for this blistering two-hour-and-20 minute set where the buoyant 60-year-old bruised through the new blues tracks, romped and bumped up old favourites, slowed down apace to reflect on his life's ups and downs and then raucously, for the sheer hell of it, attacked Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe and impishly delved into The Troggs' Wild Thing. What is there not to like about Steve Earle in full flow?
Stirring, fun, excellent musicianship from The Dukes (Chris Masterson on lead guitar was a real force), some political comment and a masterclass drive to entertain. Earle likes his audience and the audience loves him because he puts himself about a bit; there's no slacking, no coasting just that endless desire to put on a good show.
I'm not a Steve stalker but I've seen him a couple of times at Glasgow Barrowland (a natural setting for the New York-based country rock icon), Glasgow Academy, Glasgow Royal Concert, Perth Festival Concert Hall, Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh and now here at the posh Barrowland in Sauchiehall Street - and, for me, he always delivers.
This set was, not unexpectedly, top heavy with blues tracks from current release and 16th studio offering, "Terraplane" with its big head butts in the direction of blues legend, Howlin' Wolf. King Of The Blues, You're The Best Lover That I Ever Had and the ZZ Top influenced, Go-Go Boots Are Back were stand-outs, the latter preceded with the comment his Glasgow crowd already new about the return of this fashion footwear. Earle pushed the song along with real devilment.
He also knew some back catalogue classics would be expected, obligatory even. So we got stonking versions of My Old Friend The Blues, Guitar Town, Someday, Copperhead Road, Galway Girl and the heartbreaking Goodbye, the first song Earle wrote sober: "Most Novembers I break down and cry / But I can't remember if we said goodbye" - as poignant now as it was back in 1995 when he wrote it for the album, "Train A Comin."
Title track from 2004's "The Revolution Starts Now" put the brakes on the performance, rounding it all off in typically boisterous fashion with the house lights up and everyone's hands aloft.
However, I set off home with a track in my head he slotted into the programme, which is far from a personal favourite. It was the pleasing enough, Sparkle and Shine from the 2007 offering, "Washington Park Serenade" and I know why. This mighty and marvellous troubadour really does sparkle and he don't half shine as well. Brilliant.
Mike Ritchie, photocredit:Eva Lees
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