Concert Review: Lucero with Shovels and Rope
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Tuesday March 26, 2013
Even a three-hour border delay couldn’t keep Lucero away.
Luckily for those in attendance, especially for this reviewer who is ashamed to admit I’d never seen the band before last night, the tattooed boys from Memphis made it to Hogtown in plenty of time to give a generous dose of southern-fried rock and soul; it was also a raucous love-in between one band and their faithful fans.
As the smell of skunk weed emanated from the men’s bathroom, Lucero took to the stage shortly after 10:30 p.m. Touring in support of Women & Work, released last year on ATO Records, Lucero plowed through many cuts from their latest CD.
Guys dressed in jeans, wearing plaid shirts, and drinking copious cans of Labatt 50 beer, crammed the stage. A full moon makes one act strange. At least that’s one explanation for these rabid Lucero fans in the mosh pit. Acting like frat boys, they slammed each other, pumped their fists, and every so often one of the pit denizens shook a can of beer, sprayed it in the air, and then threw the empty can behind them.
These front-row fans screamed requests repeatedly between songs. Lead singer Ben Nichols and his bourbon-soaked voice happily obliged to many of these shout-outs; he even gave a pair of too-far-gone guys high-fives mid-set. Nichols was also thankful that the crazed crowd were just as appreciative during the songs he called, “slow and sad shit.” This stripped-down part of the show saw Lucero’s frontman play a few ballads, including “When I was Young,” accompanied by Rick Steff on accordion.
The rest of Lucero’s high-octane set included many memorable moments such as “Joining the Army,” “Ain’t So Lonely,” and “Texas and Tennessee.” “Nights Like These,” got most in attendance singing along as did many other songs. Even all the tattoos on stage could not distract one from all these storied tales.
Shovels and Rope opened with an energized set of their own. The dynamic duo, featuring married-couple Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent from Charleston, S.C., revved up the male-dominated, beer-swilling crowd of 20-somethings. The pair sound like a cross between early White Stripes and Johnny and June Carter Cash on steroids.
Hearst wore a jean jacket, red cowboy boots with painted nails to match. Partner Trent sported a baseball cap, jeans and a loose-fitting brown corduroy shirt. His frenetic electric guitar playing late in their hour-long set made his cap fly off several times; sweat, caused by his passionate performance, flew frequently throughout too.
“Boxcar” was one of the many highs. Shovels and Rope dedicated this song to their friends in Lucero. The duo left the stage around 10:15 p.m. to repeated chants of “one more song!”
Later Nichols lauded praise on the song slingers, joking “Shovels and Rope will play my wedding if I ever get married!”
Following Shovels and Rope’s sizzling set, the merch table was as crowded as a rush-hour streetcar; people jostled to buy a vinyl copy of the band’s fine record O’ Be Joyful (released last summer on Dualtone), along with the usual swag of tees, stickers, posters and baseball caps. A piggy bank lay on the table with this note: “Whisky and coffee fund.”
Before leaving the stage, Lucero’s bassist John C. Stubblefield stared down the crowd. Then he said these six words: “Don’t forget Toronto, Lucero loves you.” As the crowd showed throughout the night, and this reviewer certainly felt, the feeling is mutual.