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Steve Earle And the Dukes At the Town Hall, Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

What the fuck is Steve Earle's problem?

Does he really think that as we sit in (Union) Town Hall, we need to be lectured on Unionism? Were we born under a rock?. Does he think we don't know what the third Crusade were about or who Richard The Lionheart was? Or, for chrissake this is New York, does he have to teach us about immigration? What an ass. What a twit.

This is how it went.

Half an hour of material off the mediocre new one I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive.

Quarter of an hour of the classics

Quarter an hour of his (little knock out) wife Allison Moorer

Half an hour of intermission

So this was a pretty punishing first half.

The Dukes (and Duchesses) are a talented buncha kids, at one point Steve is on Bazouki, a kid who looks like a young Elvis Costello on guitar, Allison on squeezbox, a fiddle, guitar, bass and drums. High quotient musicality indeed but… not that much fun for some reason. Maybe because Steve has morphed into my High School Math teacher, he seems more stern than cool.

A terrific duet with his wife on "Every Part Of Me" had an audience member ask him to sing it again. And once Steve got to the oldies, "Someday" has a rewritten intro, "Guitar Town" -his first hit, hasn't aged a day, it was just great. So when he introduces Moorer to sing three songs, it is a disappointment; it shifted momentum. She isn't bad but really, "A Change Is Gonna Come"? Are you joking me. So Adam Lambert can say he out did her?

BUT, I figured, what the heck, there was the medicine, next half was the sugar. I mean why resurrect the name the Dukes if you don't wanna play Dukes material, right? I had dreams of Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator (the great Dukes live album from 1981) complete. Sure the first half  had sucked, but now we reach the good stuff…


 I thought if you were gonna have an intermission it was because you were gonna do something different the next half. Apparently it's because you have no idea what it is like to have a straight job and therefore don't give a shit that you are keeping working people (you know: the ones Earle romances about so much) up so you can claim to have played for three hours.

Nope, we get more of the same, reaching an unconscionable nadir with his Union lecture before pulling out an OK "Union Man" and a lousy "The Mountain".

This second set was one of the most frustrating things I've ever sat through. I don't care how good the playing is, the music was over serious, the attitude pernicious: it was like I sat there thinking one more song, and he will perform as advertised and he just didn't.

I saw him opening for Leon Helm earlier this year, a 45 minute solo turn, and he was a million, zillion times better. Was he searching his past catalog for his crappiest songs? And why does he think he has a brain?There are only two things Earle can teach me about

1. Hard drugs

2. Country music.

Speaking of which, Tuesday was Earle's 17th year straight. A huge congratulations to him.

Back to the second half. And onwards, two off the new album (it was like a recurring nightmare), a wonderful "My Friend The Fliues and if the night had been filled with songs like that, this would be a rave, the song from Treme (plus Katrina lecture: really, Steve, really?) and finally "The Revolution Starts… Now"..

The first song of the encore, Hank's "I'll Never get Out Of This World Alive" is straight up greatness. best moment of the night. And the last song of the first encore, "The Devil's Right Hand" includes his best monolog, about his son Justin Townes Earle as a 14 year old hiding Earle's gun and refusing to tell him where it is.

The final song is a cover of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry".

Look, I once wrote a post about most disappointing people in rock and Earle was top of the list so it is a testament to my appreciation of the man, that I also think he is one of the greats.

But he is the Tinman of rock and he needs to relax himself. This is New York, don't treat us like country bumpkins. And if you are going out as the Dukes please play Dukes material. For fucks sake, shut up and sing like an aviator.

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