Steve Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses, Portland, OR, June 10, 2011

Hello Music Lovers


First, let me say that I haven't seen Steve live for a few years now--no "Washington Square Serenade" or "Townes" tour for me. Just couldn't make it. So, I was pretty excited to see him and the band live again--to see if he still had that raucous energy and political angst of the past (he does). Also, this review (my first) won't be a song-by-song accounting of everything he did--I'll just present some highlights, if you will. To be honest, I was too busy stomping my feet, shaking my ass, and rocking my head back and forth to remember the complete song sequences. Yeah, it was fun.


The Crystal Ballroom is an interesting venue--big, high ceilings, chandeliers, and a floating, springy floor.  Pretty cool, really, although the concert was seated and the sound in this venue can get loud and a bit muddy--particularly vocal-wise. Perhaps it was good that the show was seated because to me, most of the audience were at least as old as Steve. For only their second show on the tour, the band (Will Rigby--drums; Kelly Looney--bass; Allison Moorer--guitars, keys, and vox; Eleanor Whitmore--mando, fiddle, baritone guitars, vox; Chris Masterson--lead guitar and anything with strings, vox) was in fine form--they seemed pretty tight and knew the songs. Of course, Rigby and Looney have been playing with Steve for awhile. It was nice to see the band starting out fresh.


The first set began with the first 4-5 songs off of Steve's new record--"I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive".  Pretty much spot on.  I was standing just stage-left, about 10 feet away and everything sounded fine.  It was really cool to see Masterson using Swart Amplifiers--I own one and they are badass. These first songs were followed by a cornucopia of other stuff spanning his discography--including "Mystery Train, part II", "Taneytown", "My Old Friend The Blues", and a couple of other tunes off his new disc (I told you I can't remember everything!). The first set concluded with a trio of songs by Allison--Steve introduced her, left the stage, and she finished it off. 


The second set began with perhaps my favorite song of Steve's to see live--"Copperhead Road".  Oh, for crying out loud. This was like setting the audience on fire--and the hairs on the back of my neck were at attention. Since he had his mando in hand, he followed with "Galway Girl"--another feel-good fave and a great song to hear and see live. The second set, like the first, was filled with many cuts spanning his career--he definitely covered the terrain, including  "I Ain't Ever Satisfied",  "Ben McCoullagh", and "Hard Core Troubador". Another highlight was "The Revolution Starts Now"--which I was hoping would be followed by one of my faves--"Home To Houston"--but alas, it was did not. Gee whiz--I can't even remember how the second set ended--rocking, I know that--was it "The Unrepentant"?  I'm sure folks who were there, or in Seattle the night before, will help me out. The other cool thing about the second set was that he let Kelly Looney and the Mastersons (Eleanor and Chris are married) each do a song--both were memorable. 


For the first of three encores, Steve opened with "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive"--a nice country rendition of the Hank Williams' classic. I think the first encore was also the first time where we got to hear serious "Earle-speak"--he spoke emphatically about the importance of unions and then broke into "The Mountain".  The second encore opened with more "Earle-speak"--this time on politics and followed by "Christmas In Washington". The second and third encores included "Hillbilly Highway", "Guitar Town", "John Walker's Blues", and it all ended with a lifting, lilting "Jerusalem".


For all you folks waiting to see Steve and the band live, I hope this gives you a flavor for what you're in store for. I will personally guarantee a good time.





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Tags: Portland, Steve Earle, concert review

Comment by Hal Bogerd on June 13, 2011 at 9:34am

it's hard times. Steve's coming to town and tickets and parking come in at a little over $50. Decisions and budgets had to be made. So it was Steve or....

Girls Guns and Glory  ($10) done

John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff (free) done

Jon Dee Graham and Sam Baker ($15) done

Dave Alvin and Los Straitjackets ($17) 6/17

Sally Spring and Jonathan Byrd ($12) 6/25


So that's $54-no parking and no service charges-for 5 shows!  As Jon Dee Graham said last night "Times are hard and you have a lot of choices how to spend your money. Thanks for coming out tonight." I love Steve Earle but....

Comment by Patsy Raney on June 14, 2011 at 9:55am
I'm down for Steve and the band here in Eugene July 1st.  I've seen him more times than I can remember but it's always an awesome show.  They'll play a sit-down venue here with excellent acoustics.    re:  Hal and hard times..... indeed.  I always put my money on the live music.  Make your choices and place your bets.... if you're supporting performers and live music, it's all good.  BTW, I'd love to see a Jon Dee Graham/Sam Baker show; that would be $15 damn well spent.....
Comment by Mark Perron on June 15, 2011 at 7:21am

Last week I paid $25 each for two tickets to see Steve Earle here in New Orleans at the House of Blues. I work at a non-profit and am not exactly "made of money." However, my feeling is that is too little. When I see the prices that an Elton/Joel concert gets, or Lady Gaga (heard of her, never heard her) at a huge arena, it always pisses me off that Alejandro tickets go for ten bucks. How do you tour on that? You know how much better Steve Earle is going to be than Elton John (nothing against Elton, mind)? 

Hal's list includes Dave Alvin at $17. Ridiculous. Dave Alvin is one of the greatest songwriter/musician/live performers/nice guys of our era. He should get more than that for a small venue concert! Twice that.

No offense to anyone, times are tough. But coming off of what I think is Steve Earle's best album since "I Feel Alright" I advise anyone who can to dig however deep it takes and see the show if it comes to your town. Like Patsy, I've seen Mr. Earle more times than I can count, and not only has he never disappointed, he always exceeded expectations. 

While I'm on my high horse about musician wages--I gotta say I also get frustrated in the clubs and on the street here in New Orleans at how people handle a tip jar. in 1981 long before I moved here, it was common to throw in a buck per set. It appears that for many people that is still the amount they pay. How can one justify tipping the band a dollar for an hour's music (fantastic music, most often) when they tip the bartender that amount for a four dollar beer? It makes no sense. Tip the bartender the buck, and the band five bucks. Or buy their CD. 

From the clubs to the Dave Alvins we need to support musicians so they will continue to do what they do--enrich our lives immeasurably. 

Comment by Mark Perron on June 15, 2011 at 7:26am

P.S. Matt, in my proselytizing I forgot to thank you for the review. I can't wait for my turn--July 11. And I also forgot to say: Buy "TREME" the David Simon HBO series. Season one is out for purchase, and Steve Earle has a recurring role, as he did on The Wire. A host of New Orleans' musicians are featured every week. 

Oh, and come down here. We have great clubs and need the dollars you'll spend. I'd be happy to give y'all a list of restaurants in every locale and price range. For clubs, all you need to know is Tipitina's, Maple Leaf, and Frenchman Street. (There are others, but for a short stay that will cover it...)

Comment by Matt Mesa on June 15, 2011 at 7:44am

Hey all--great comments, thanks for the feedback. Regarding ticket prices and shows, I agree that things are getting expensive and there are bargains out there to be had. As Mark alludes to, perhaps the bargains are too good.  Living near Portland, OR, I support local and national acts whenever I can--it's what I do. I do watch the ticket prices though, and sometimes it will influence my decision on who to see.  For example, the Steve Earle show was 30 bucks--not bad for two solid sets of music and three encores. Was worth every penny. The next night, John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett were doing a duo show--a songwriter-pull, if you will. Tix for that show were pushing 100 bucks, but I think 60-80 was the norm. That's more serious cash and it makes the decision more difficult--I love those guys, seen Hiatt a million times, but...well, you get the point. The thing about it is, there are so many acts that I haven't seen, that nowadays I keep a look out for something different coming my way (Jon Dee Graham would be one--haven't seen him yet!). Finally, I love Mark's tip about the tip jar. I play in a local band and we'd love to see that!


Ok Mark--I'll take you up on your open invite to NO someday, can't wait!





Comment by Mark Perron on June 15, 2011 at 9:02am

Last week I paid $59.50 plus service fees for tickets in late July for Bob Dylan with Leon Russell opening. I believe that is the first time in my (long) life I paid over $50 for concert tickets.

I agree completely with your take on the John Hiatt/Lyle Lovett concert. I'd feel bad the night of the show knowing I was missing it, but could not justify paying that amount. No way. 

On a recent TREME episode, season two, Steve Earle was at a John Hiatt concert at the House of Blues. He'd taken in a young violinist as a songwriting protege, and was teaching her what it takes to write a song. Hiatt played a stunningly beautiful rendition of "Feels Like Rain." On the walk home, Earle's protege (Lucia Micarelli) was saying: "he just caught New Orleans, after Katrina. It was written on so many levels about the city..." and Steve said: "what makes it a great song is it was written 20 years ago, while you still had training wheels on your bike."




Comment by Matt Mesa on June 15, 2011 at 11:07am
Nice--I've got to check this TREME show out.  Thanks.
Comment by Tom on June 21, 2011 at 1:22pm
Kinda funny how we all differ.  I haven't purchased Steve's new CD because I think it is a rip-off when looking at the total track time.  He's playing the HOB here in Houston at $60 for 4 GA tickets.  I'm not going because the beer there sucks, is expensive and the mixed drinks are small and expensive.  The sound sure is good though.  Don't tell me I don't have to have a drink either, as right as that is, to me it's like going to a baseball game and not having peanuts or a dog.
Comment by Mark Perron on June 21, 2011 at 1:36pm

All I can say is total track time be damned. The new CD is great. The first three songs alone are worth the price of the album. 

Can't remark on HOB in Houston. He's coming to HOB in New Orleans in July. I have my tickets. The beer is expensive, but you can get good English beer in bottles and cans, or Guiness, or a variety. I'll drink before and after elsewhere. 


Comment by chris sweeney on July 7, 2011 at 8:28pm

I caught the Steve Earle show here in Houston last night and thought it was great. Wonderful selection of songs from throughout his career.

Allison Moorer was featured nicely, Kelly Looney had a song included in the set and The Mastersons (Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson) were great.

I thought $30 a ticket for 6th row seats was very fair for a show of this quality. If I factor in the free in-store Steve did here just two months ago, I feel like I got a lot of Steve Earle bang for the buck lately!



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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.