Lydia Loveless & The Drive-By Truckers at Seattle’s Showbox, 9/29/16
The 1993-1994 Chicago Bulls were, by any objective measure, an excellent basketball team, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before succumbing to a Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks squad in seven games. The versatile forward Scottie Pippen had his best year as a pro, leading the Bulls in scoring and assists while surrounded by a solid supporting cast that included Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Toni Kukoc, and a center rotation of surprisingly serviceable white stiffs, most of whom sported reddish-brown mini-mullets.
But for as good as the Bulls were, they failed to reach the heights of the year before, when they were led by Michael Jordan. They won the NBA title that year, just as they did in all of Jordan’s final six full years in Chicago. Grieving the mysterious murder of his father, Jordan took a sabbatical to play baseball (badly). Thankfully for everyone, he eventually hung up his cleats and returned to the court.
The Drive-By Truckers are the 1993-1994 Bulls, but their Jordan—Jason Isbell—has found ample success on the diamond (i.e., with his solo career). Self-destructive behavior hastened his exit from the band, and he’s since found a way to keep his demons at bay. The Truckers are still fantastic, and proved as much last night at Seattle’s Showbox, where their politically provocative lyrics pairing perfectly with scorching guitar riffs. Yet every time I see them, I can’t help but think of what might have been. I suppose it’s not too late for Isbell, who’s on good terms with his former mates, to reunite with the Truckers. But there’s zero chance he’d be motivated to do so permanently, at least while he’s in his prime. (Here’s where I could further this strained analogy by writing about how Jordan’s comeback with the Washington Wizards might parallel Isbell’s career prospects when he reaches the age of 70, but I’ll spare you such geeky bloviation.)
The Truckers are currently being supported on tour by Lydia Loveless, a diminutive, profane Emma Stone lookalike from rural Ohio, home to similarly tough-as-shit female rockers Chrissie Hynde and Erika Wennerstrom. The crowd had a great-ass time rocking out to the Truckers; it’s impossible not to with such a consistently quality outfit. But Loveless commanded closer attention, her stoic stage demeanor belying her combustible reputation. (The fact that she stuck to beer onstage might have helped.)
For the uninitiated, Loveless sounds like an amalgam of Belinda Carlisle and Neko Case, with her music running toward the punkier tendencies of the former bombshell. Dressed in black tights, a black sweater and a tight, frilly green dress that resembled something Reba McEntire might have worn in The Gambler Returns, Loveless explained her ensemble to the crowd like so: “Do you ever have those days when you dress like an old-timey hooker who went to the mountains? I feel like I could have fucked Wyatt Earp or something.”
Loveless and her band opened with “To Love Somebody” off her 2014 album Somewhere Else, and plucked “Midwestern Guys,” “Same to You,” “Longer,” and the title track off her new LP, Real. A spunky, forceful rocker, Loveless isn’t prone to gesticulation, but her bassist and guitarist sure are—and it’s entertaining as hell. It helps that they both look like celebrities: If Mickey Rourke and Glenn Frey could produce a love child, it’d be guitarist Todd May, while bassist Ben Lamb—also Loveless’ husband—is a ringer for Will Ferrell’s long-haired Lucifer on Saturday Night Live.