Bottle Rockets – Lakeside Lounge (Raleigh, NC)
Three guys half an arena away — one behind a small fortress of keyboards, one riding a revolving drum set, and one standing on an Oriental rug — and two cannons. That sums up my first-ever concert: Emerson, Lake & Palmer on the “Pirates” tour. Twenty-five years later almost to the day, I found myself at the cozy Lakeside Lounge standing eight feet away from three guys on stools — the one in the middle wearing an old-school Santana t-shirt and black Chuck Taylors (you can bet your Tarkus that Greg Lake’s never worn black Chuck Taylors) — and a guy sitting behind one drum. Some would argue, but I call that progress.
The Lakeside is a long way from the Broome County Veterans Arena in New York, geographically and otherwise. It has a distinct neighborhood corner bar feel, and the Bottle Rockets were tucked away in one of those corners for two hours, playing a staggering 33 songs in one long acoustic set. And if you bought frontguy Brian Henneman’s frequent “Let’s see how this one works” intros, this was the first time in a stripped-down setting for a bunch of the tunes.
An early highlight was “Sometimes Found”, a collection of minimalist musings that peaks with “Sometimes Rather, sometimes Chung/Sometimes Faron, Faron Young,” which falls just a few syllables short of being a genuine Mizzou haiku. Later, there was a three-tune run of “Kit Kat Clock”, “Hey Moon” and “Love Like A Truck”, each charming and musically chipper enough to be covered by NRBQ, or the Muppets. (One of the evening’s many amusing asides had Henneman sharing the story of “Love Like A Truck” being pitched to Patty Loveless.)
A stump-the-band segment was retired early in the second round — after a successful run at Neil Young’s “Are You Ready For The Country?” — when the guys realized they couldn’t get through Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”. The true coverfest was at the end of the night, complete with cameos. A congested Chip Robinson of the Backsliders improvised a second verse for the late Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover”, and Kenny Roby signed on for another Sahm-associated classic, the old Charley Pride hit “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone”. Bassist Robert Kearns then took the lead on an earthy version of The Band’s “The Weight”, with his former Cry Of Love bandmate Audley Freed (now a Black Crowe) sitting in on guitar, before a 20-minute “Cortez The Killer” shut things down.
Nope, no cannons. But with songs such as “Kerosene”, “Welfare Music”, and “Indianapolis”, the Bottle Rockets had plenty of big guns to blast.