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David Lindley at Space, Evanston, ILL, Wednesday, May 21st, 2014, Reviewed

David Hindley In Loud Shirt

David Hindley In Loud Shirt

David Lindley is hardly a household name, yet in some musical circles he is a legendary figure who can play every stringed instrument you can think of, and many more besides. His very long list of credits over the past five decades includes Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash (and various offshoots thereof), Warren Zevon, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Ry Cooder and many more, not to mention his own band, El Rayo-X. These days, Lindley can mostly be seen playing solo, and his summer schedule in 2014 looks to be his busiest in some years.

On a warm May evening, the small stage at the intimate SPACE venue in Evanston, Illinois (north Chicago suburbs) is sparse but for a chair, a monitor, and a number of unusual stringed instruments. You don’t see things like an Irish bouzouki, a Turkish oud or Weissenborn style guitars very often…. unless you enter Mr Dave’s world. If your idea of a good gig is something loud and cheery with an impressive light show and all that jazz, Lindley would not be your first choice. His stage is minimalist, and his music is acoustic, thoughtful and very eclectic. What you ARE treated to is a virtuoso display of stringed instrument musicianship, a lot of dry wit, and more than just a hint of “left field”.

Lindley took to the stage at 7.30pm, resplendent in a garish “Elvis, concert in Hawaii” polyester shirt, beige pants and blue ostrich skin shoes. Lindley has never made the top 100 best dressed musicians list. The set started off with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Leave Home Girl”, played, as most of the songs were this evening, on one of the three lap steel guitars. Every song was introduced, Lindley becoming more talkative as the evening went on. Next up was Danny O’Keefe’s darkly humorous “He Would Have Loved You More Than Eva Braun”. Played with a distinctly Hawaiian feel, it features the bizarre chorus “A broken heart is like a Nazi, a Nazi is like the blues…” Lindley followed this song up by explaining his theory of life (it’s made up of levels, like lasagna), which made you kind of wonder about his methods of recreation back in the late 60’s! Three more songs made up the first set – Warren Zevon’s “The Indifference of Heaven” with a light but distinctive Lindley-esque reggae beat; the O’Keefe/Dylan environmental anthem “Well, Well, Well”; and rounded off with another of his buddy Zevon’s songs, “Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse”. The first, 5 song set lasted 55 minutes, and Lindley was given hearty applause as he left the stage. The crowd had been respectfully quiet and attentive, with almost no sign of a camera or phone unlike at many gigs these days. Lindley is known to be anti-bootlegging and anti-photography, reinforced by his semi-joking anecdote about a man at a previous show who had kept using a large camera despite repeated requests from the stage to stop – apparently the miscreant is now buried in a box in a Californian desert…

Lindley returned after a 25 minute break to warm up playing the oud before going into the cheery old folk ditty, “Little Sadie”, which tells the story of Lee Brown killing Sadie and going on the run before being captured and sentenced. Mack Vickery’s “Meat Man” followed, on which Lindley showed off his lap steel virtuosity at length. The show slowed down somewhat, with two lengthy and occasionally intense introductions/rants, first about genetically modified crops (and patenting thereof for profit) which eventually led into “Meatgrinder Blues”; and then about politicians lying to people and specifically about Fukushima and its after effects which led into the Dolly Parton song “Pretty Polly”. The hard seating became increasing uncomfortable, and people were noticeably fidgeting by the time we got into these long intro’s and songs. I can’t criticize Lindley for raising awareness of serious social issues, and his comments were intelligent and thought provoking. However, the clock was ticking on and the seating getting harder. The second set closer was another old folk song, “The Johnson Boys” . The crowd gave Lindley very appreciative applause as he briefly left the stage. He soon returned to close the show with his funny yet often revolting ode to backstage catering, “Cat Food Sandwiches”. Don’t eat the head cheese.

The show was certainly value for money, clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes playing time, and watching Lindley play was a technical master class. His playing style and voice are perfectly suited to the old time folk and traditional songs, and he gives interesting interpretations of more recent songs, especially Warren Zevon’s. However, while Lindley can’t be blamed for the hard seating, he could have moved things along in the second set. The diehard Lindley fans could happily hang on his every wry word for hours, but I took along 3 people for their first Lindley experience and there was a feeling of too much talking in the second set. Eighty minutes to play five songs plus encore tells that story.

Overall, David Lindley is definitely worth seeing. A truly amazing player of the lap steel, oud, bouzouki, you name it… you can see why he is held in such regard by so many other musicians. Just remember that it could be a long, intense acoustic show, so make sure the seats are comfortable!

Grade: B


(Set 1 – 55m)

About To Make Me Leave Home Girl

He Would Have Loved You More Than Eva Braun

The Indifference of Heaven

Well Well Well

Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse

(Set 2 – 80m incl encore)

Little Sadie

They Call Me The Meat Man

The Meatgrinder Blues

Pretty Polly

The Johnson Boys


Cat Food Sandwiches

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