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Concert Reviews with Very Poor Photography
by Roy Peak

 

Alejandro Escovedo and the Pat Puckett Trio at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall June 27th, 2017

Alejandro Escovedo and his band

Pat Puckett Trio

Pat Puckett Trio

I first saw Alejandro Escovedo a few years back. It was a great show, Alejandro smiling his way through much of the night, playing some songs his band new, a few they did not, but they did their best to keep up. This time around he had a much tighter and versatile band, including a young, hotshot guitarist who got the attention of the crowd right off the bat with a blistering solo on the very first song.

The highlight for me was the "sit down performance" midway through the show. Alejandro was in a talkative mood, regaling us with tidbits of nostalgia such as the time he opened for the Sex Pistols at Winterland, the first time he played Austin, Texas, and a tour he did with his band Rank and File that ended with the band breaking up. Half a dozen or so of "intimate acoustic" songs and then Alejandro fired up his electric guitar to finish the set out with a few rockers. Alejandro is a top-notch songwriter who wisely allows his band to open up the songs to the best of their abilities. A fun moment was when the lead guitarist had a technical problem but soldiered right on, the band laughing along with him.

Opening up the night was the Pat Puckett Trio from Tallahassee. It's awfully rare that an opening act gives the headliner a run for their money, but Puckett and his band did just that. Focused, emotional songwriting, and perfect pop length songs presented with a dash of Telecaster twang and just a hint of maelstrom right when and where it's needed. Puckett wrangled some excellent tasty solos while his abled band kept things rolling right along. Puckett played guitar for Alejandro years back and his on-stage banter about those times was pretty amusing.

Two excellent acts that fit together on one bill. I'll definitely go to see Alejandro again, and I look forward to catching Pat Puckett and his band next time they're in town.





Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins at Jackrabbits February 24th, 2017

                                 Jonathan Richman at Jackrabbits


Because of a fortuitous Facebook posting by Daniel A. Brown I zipped up to Jack Rabbits just in time to see Jonathan Richman play another stellar performance like only he can. Richman has a way of causing an audience to immediately drop their guard and jump aboard the “Jonathan Richman Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Train To Fun.” Someone requested Richman’s classic song “Pablo Picasso” and Richman immediately gave a hilarious diatribe on why he no longer plays that song, which seemed to appease the audience member, and then Richman was off and running.

I first saw Richman live thirty-odd years ago at a club on the beach and try to catch him whenever he's in town. It was a little over twenty-five years ago when Tommy Larkins started playing drums for him (he looked like a kid that first time, now he’s gray and grizzled) and every time that I see Larkins with Richman he has a different type of drum kit. At first it was a standard four-piece rock kit, sometimes he brings a cocktail kit, this time he substituted a conga for the snare drum and used varying toms and cymbals. Richman still calls out directions to Larkins, sometimes to hilarious results: “Use that old Velvet Underground beat!” Richman called out once tonight, and Larkins jumped on it and the song came right together. On another song Larkins was getting a sound that Richman had never heard him do before and you could tell that Richman was completely into it, reveling in the sound and pointing out the newness to the crowd. Richman played fragments of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Higher,” many songs were in French or Italian, and a highlight was his cover of the  Leonard Cohen song “Here It Is.”

If you’ve never seen Richman live, it's difficult to explain what it is he does. His style is so far outside of rock ‘n’ roll that it simultaneously encompasses all of rock ‘n’ roll at the same time. There’s bits of rockabilly, punk, folk, island casualness, and jazz in Richman’s playing yet it all comes out focused, not forced. He spends more time AWAY from the microphone than near it, often holding court at the front of the stage, telling the audience about the songs or getting them to clap along or dance while he puts down his guitar and grabs the shakers or a tambourine. He doesn't use a set list, the songs jump out of him spontaneously, he changes keys on a whim, starts a new song, the words seemingly coming to him stream of conscious-style, you never know whether he’s performing a learned song or making it up as he goes. The only thing I know for sure is that Richman is the only artist who makes me smile all the way through their set.

Sorry I didn't get a better photo, I was too busy having fun. Thanks Dan for letting me know about the show and to finally meet you, if only for three seconds!