Hayes Carll and Bob Schneider are both hirsute troubadours who live in Austin, Tex. They each have sons who are approaching middle school age, and have wryly — but accurately — dubbed their current co-headlining jaunt The World’s Greatest Living Songwriters of All Time Tour.
Their similarities end there, more or less. Last night, at Seattle’s ornate Triple Door -- a jewel box of a supper club where port and torte tabs can run to regal proportions -- Carll opened for Schneider (reverse order from the night before) during the second of two sold-out shows. Carll took the stage looking as though he’d just rolled out of bed and into a blue t-shirt and jeans, with dust mites somehow affixing brown cowboy boots to his feet. Hilariously recounting his days as Crystal Beach, Texas’ premier bar act, one got the feeling that there was a reservoir of darkness bubbling just beneath the surface. Lanky and droll, there’s a Gauthier-ness to Carll, only he doesn’t treat the stage as his pulpit and confessional.
Whereas Carll used only an acoustic guitar to get through his 75-minute set, Schneider, six-string in hand, was surrounded by keyboards, pedals, and an iPad. At the start of most songs, he’d play a few bars and digitally can the riff, creating the effect of an invisible backing band. While both are bearded, the much shorter Schneider is Hayes’ aesthetic opposite, with artfully mussed hair, a dark blazer, black jeans and cream-colored shoes. He’s not as pretty as he once was, but he’s got eyelashes a glam-rocker would kill for, which did not go unnoticed by the women in the front row.
Carll is firmly entrenched in Americana, whereas Schneider’s oeuvre is wildly divergent. He can be Jackson Browne one night and Tenacious D the next — or an amalgam of both. His lyrics are alternately touching and profane. At one point, before a particularly salty number, he acknowledged the few children in the audience, remarking, “Kids like songs with the word ‘fuck’ in it.” (He’s right!) Later, commenting on his own posterior, he said, “What would I give to have the buttocks of an Olympic runner? If I did, I’d be turning around a lot more.”
There were several similar quips in Carll’s set, which points to the tourmates’ binding commonality: their peerlessly amusing stage banter. At times, especially during Schneider’s set, the line between standup and singing was completely blurred. Some might call such a show schizophrenic, but nobody can claim they weren’t thoroughly entertained.