The Mastersons Live at the Barrymore Theater: Give Them Half an Hour to Earn Your Love
Let’s get one thing clear from the outset, I love this band! I have been trying to write this review for a couple of weeks now but have not quite been able to pull the trigger. No, it’s not a case of writer’s block. I just cannot find anything to be critical about alt country’s most talented duo. So with that as a disclaimer I throw objectivity and caution to the wind.
The venue is the Barrymore Theater, in Madison, Wisconsin. For the uninitiated, the Barrymore is a funky throwback to the late 60’s, no pretentions, proudly not fancy. Just a great place to see live music for a reasonable price with a nice selection of craft beers. Although it is about an 8 hour drive for me roundtrip, a show at the Barrymore is well worth it and has quickly become one of my favorite venues to see music.
Taking the stage promptly at 8 PM, The Mastersons are introduced by the night’s headliner, Steve Earle. After pimping the meat loaf at the little place across the street and proclaiming his love for the venue, Mr. Earle expresses his admiration for the husband and wife duo that also make up one-half of his band the Dukes. Wasting no time, the Mastersons tear into one of the gems off their latest cd, “Nobody Knows”. As much as I love the full band version on the disc and Chris Mastersons beautiful electric guitar work, Eleanor Whitmore’s beautifully strong voice and perfect melodies with Mr. Masterson will soon have you forgetting about versions and instrumentation and just digging the music. Between songs Eleanor explains they get only about half an hour to win us over before setting up the next number. She dedicates “Cautionary Tale” to all the people she sees in restaurants and bars who are buried in their hand held devices and smart phones instead of paying attention to the person they are out with. Being I was sitting fairly close to the stage holding two devices, one to take notes and the other to take pictures, she made me feel ridiculous and self-conscious, touché.
I would love to be able to report on the next several songs they performed but thanks to Eleanor’s “Cautionary Tale” and her gravitas, I cannot read the cryptic notes I sneaked to peck into my iPod whenever she was looking the other way, resulting in unintelligible gibberish. That and the fact that I have reached that stage in life where my medium term memory is not as good as it used to be, I am left with that corollary to the Rumsfeld Doctrine, “I Only Know What I Know”. Consequently, what I do know is that Eleanor introduced their final number, the title track to their latest work, “Good Luck Charm” by explaining the inspiration for it came from Texas politics and the shenanigans that the party in power pulled a few years back (if I am not mistaken I believe the overreaching conduct was recently overturned by the courts) and by the reaction of the audience, something most Wisconsinites can relate to as well.