January 21, 2018
Alejandro Escovedo was recently asked to represent the Prevent
Cancer Foundation’s Think About the Link Campaign. The goal is to educate
his people about the link between Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, the HPV virus and
liver cancer. His 15-year experience with Hep C and recent advances in the treatment
of Hep C make him the right man at the right time. The show is divided into
Escovedo uses the opportunity to reunite and expand the little
big band that gave his expansive look at love and loss, 2001’s A
Man Under the Influence, its sheen. Escovedo has one of those
immediately recognizable, addictive voices. On record, and live, the songs are
melodic but not trite, the arrangements and sound are full, layered but uncluttered.
Former DB Chris Stamey is on board as bandleader and alternates
between guitar, keys, percussion and conducting. Mitch Easter
is on guitar. Some songs feature plaintive trumpet. Cello and viola emphasize
the ache. Their slow cook methodology adds depth to the bitter Don’t Need
You. The pedal steel and backup singers expand the pallet. Singer Kelly
Hogan duets with Escovedo on one of the worlds unheralded
tear-jerk, backyard wedding songs - "Wedding Day". It gives Nancy Griffith’s
"Love at the Five and Dime" a run for its money.
The first set is like an old-school album - made to be played and absorbed
in its meticulous entirety. The disk isn’t devoid of rock. Man Under
the Influence includes one of Escovedo’s best-known rockers - the
partner paean Castanets. Velvet Guitar also raises it voice. Both hint toward
the second set.
After a brief PSA for the Think About the Link campaign, the band returns for
a set of rockers, most by musicians who were taken by cancer. The band tears
through a request for his NY Punk reminiscence, Chelsea Hotel ‘78’.
It gives Escovedo a chance remind us that he can rip out a Lou-like, tense-wire
guitar solo anytime he wants. "Sally Was a Cop" from Big Station shimmers
with trumpet, ambiance and nasty south of border dread.
The band steamrolls through the dedications. Escovedo’s "Tugboat" is
a shout out to Velvet Sterling Morrison. "Moonage Daydream" says
hi to both Ronson and Bowie and gives Easter
a chance to shine on guitar. The boys get a second nod with the
everybody sings All the Young Dudes. Finally, they leave everyone
dancing with a rollicking Lou homage on Rock and Roll.
City Winery isn't as bad as I’d been led to believe.
They seem to have worked out the issues that led to a few canceled
shows. It doesn’t have the charm of a dive but the woody
room feels warm when the lights are low. The tables are perpendicular
to the stage. The back twist is a bit annoying, but it's not the
end of the world. Drinks aren’t cheap, but if you like wine,
you'll have plenty of options to explore. It’s a bit of
a challenge to find for the first time, but it's just a short
walk from Canal Street. The beer selection was adequate. No cocktails?
I didn't try the food. Most importantly, the sound is solid -
if not spectacular - especially for a band mix that would challenge
the board on the best of nights. I was in the back center. I suspect
the sound was better in the usual sweet spots.