Alejandro Escovedo at Cluny Newcastle
Amy Speace ex of New York and now living in Nashville crammed her short set with tracks from her latest album Land Like a Bird and a couple from her previous works and her crystal clear; but world-wearied voice held the Cluny audience entranced from start to finish.
Her song Ghost; about the Grandfather she never knew, was so good it felt like I’d known it all my life and the stripped down version of Real Love Song that she finished the set with put me in mind of a young Joni Mitchell 40 years ago.
Last year Alejandro Escovedo’s concert at the Live Theatre was one of my favourite ever gigs but I’m not sure tonight’s concert will make this year’s Top Ten. On the lead up to the show I’d been really excited as this would be the first time I’d seen him perform with a band; and judging from the air of anticipation in the Cluny I wasn’t alone with that feeling.
A roar greeted Alejandro and the quaintly named Sensitive Boys as they made their way onto the cramped stage; but I was instantly put on the back foot by the wall of sound that crashed out of the speakers during the first song Sally Was a Cop from the album Big Station that has not been released yet.
Even when Alejandro played an acoustic guitar it still took me four or five songs to come to terms with the incessant buzz-saw sound that accompanied all of the new songs, but once I’d acclimatized to the noise; I thoroughly enjoyed the show; which owed more to the singers’ early Punk Rock days than anything he’s recorded in the last 10 years.
Some songs were introduced and some weren’t but Bottom of the World about an aging blue collar working man looking back on his life stood out from the pack; as it wasn’t quite as loud as the rest and also had a catchy chorus.
Although it is about a very serious drought that affected Escovedo’s home town; the irony of singing San Antonio Rain while a storm of Biblical proportion raged outside the hall wasn’t lost on the singer.
Of the older songs that were played Sister Lost Soul sounded much fiercer than on record and Down in the Bowery actually felt like a punch to the heart.
As the concert approached the 2-hour mark, a 12 minute version of Can’t Make Me Runfeatured Escovedo growling into a voice decoder in a Beefheart style as the band went into Freak Out mode, much to a small section of the crowds’ delight as they head-banged as if the last 30 years hadn’t happened.
The first encore was a rather haphazard love song, Sabor A Mi sung as a duet in Spanish with Amy Speace who had to read the lyrics from a piece of paper; which lost some of the songs’ sparkle.
The hot and sticky night came to a very noisy conclusion with a barely recognizable feedback drenched adaptation of Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane which evolved into Waiting for the Man by the Velvet Underground in a post-alt-punk manner.
My ears were still ringing the following morning and I still wasn’t sure how much I’d actually enjoyed the gig.
photos – www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk
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