These days, I keep asking myself if the rock music I know and love is soon gonna die. Ironically, I believe its demise may be the result of there both being not enough and too much of the good old stuff.
I observe the “not enough” every time I review the local concert calendar or a festival line up. Who in the world are these bands? I can only imagine what kind of music they play, but by their names and looks, they don’t seem like the kind of acts that would be encoring with a Chuck Berry cover.
As for the “too much,” it all boils down to our personal saturation points. I saw an example of this on a recent episode of the Nashville TV show that featured Elton John. After making a reference to his latest record, I thought about how silly this was. No one cares about his new album. Like many other classic rock artists, fans simply have no room in their musical capacity for anymore more from their favorites. Have you listened to Springsteen’s High Hopes lately?
But, if you are looking for an exception, look no further than Alejandro Escovedo. This young at heart 66-year old singer-songwriter is still at it, rocking it live to fans who care and releasing new music that still matters.
Escovedo’s history is long and varied. In his early days, he was as a punk rocker with The Nuns in San Francisco. Later, he made his mark in Austin as a cow-punk pioneer with Rank and File and then showed us how he could rock with the True Believers and over a long solo career. Through all of this, he’s also kept a serious, sensitive side to his music and taken bold chances with string quartets and a musical play.
Touring behind a new record, Burn Something Beautiful, Al made this tour special by bringing along Scott McCaughey’s Minus 5 ensemble—the same guys who worked on the new record. As an added treat, this would be the second time in the last few months that an R.E.M. member found his way onto the Nashville City Winery stage.
With Peter Buck serving admirably as a low-key bass player, The Minus 5 played a delightful opening set as could be despite the majority of the songs being about death. Front man McCaughey is in charge of this combo with a laid back but commanding presence that lures you in like he was your best friend hosting a cookout in his backyard. On the other hand, guitarist Kurt Bloch is a great guitar player whose hyperactivity can wear you out.
After a short break, the Minus 5 all returned with Escovedo as front man. Buck switched to lead guitar and McCaughey took to his Rickenbacker bass. Alejandro then proceeded to rock our faces off with songs from his new record as well as some older ones. He even threw in a song from one of his side projects, Austin’s Buick McKane, a band respectfully named for a T. Rex song. Al encored with two songs paying homage to another of his musical heroes, Mott the Hoople legend, Ian Hunter.
Folks, your musical life ain’t complete until you’ve seen Al live and discovered his deep catalog. He is surely deserving of much more in his career, and sadly, he’s just never gotten the big break that he deserves. Springsteen once tried at one of his shows in Houston, inviting Al to duet on “Always a Friend,” the song that closed this night at the Winery. Give this guy a listen and help spread the word—it’s not too late.
THE MINUS 5
- There is No Music
- In the Ground
- Robert Ryan is Among Us
- I’m Not Bitter
- Davy Gets the Girl
- The History You Hate
- [new song]
- In a Lonely Coffin
- It’s Beautiful Here
- Guns (Nice as Fuck cover)
- Blue Rickenbacker
- Aw Shit Man
- My Generation
- Heartbeat Smile
- Sunday Morning Feeling
- Beauty of Your Smile
- Suit of Lights
- Farewell to the Good Times
- The End (Buick McKane)
- Sensitive Boys
- The Beauty and the Buzz
- Shave the Cat
- Luna de Miel
- Johnny Volume
- Down in the Bowery
- I Was Drunk
- I Wish I Was Your Mother (Mott the Hoople cover)
- Irene Wilde (Ian Hunter cover)
- Always a Friend
Alejandro Escovedo—vocals and guitar
Scott McCaughey—vocals and guitar / bass (with Escovedo)
Peter Buck—bass (with Minus 5) / guitar (with Escovedo)