Backed by a stellar supporting cast in the Dukes, a fit-looking Earle opened with "Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)."
Backed by a stellar supporting cast in the Dukes, a fit-looking Earle opened with "Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)." Changing one lyric to, "Let's blow up Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or Syria," the singer set the tone for the evening, steamrolling through the early portion of the show with songs from the new album. Making little small talk in his between-song banter, Earle spoke of his opposition to the U.S. government. "Paranoia is defined as fear not based in reality," he said. "So, my definition of paranoia and my government's are poles apart."
Earle made it somewhat of a family affair as son Justin took lead guitar for "Ashes to Ashes" and brother Patrick Earle added percussion on "Conspiracy Theory." From there, the band rolled out a series of crowd favorites for most of the next hour. For most musicians, such signature songs as "Guitar Town," "Copperhead Road," or "Someday" would be left for the encore, or at least the homestretch. But as Earle's catalog grows, it appears the amount of crowd-pleasers does as well.
Guitarist Eric Ambel and longtime bassist Kelly Looney shined during the poignant death-row narrative "Billy Austin" and the toe-tapping bluegrass of "Mystery Train Part II" from Earle's comeback record Train A-Comin'. Opening act Garrison Starr provided harmony vocals for the pretty "I Remember You."
Throughout his performance, numbers Earle would describe as "songs about girls" meshed nicely with social or political messages. The bouncy "Oh Amanda" preceded the highlight of the evening, "John Walker Blues." With the spotlight shining solely on him, Earle sang the controversial track written from the perspective of captured American Taliban member John Walker Lindh. It received one of the biggest ovations from the near-capacity crowd.
Wrapping up the main portion of the show with a series of hard-rock tracks like "N.Y.C. (New York City)" and "The Unrepentant," Earle returned for seven more songs in two encores, the latter boasting more political numbers. "I Ain't Ever Satisfied" gave way to a cover of the Nick Lowe-penned Elvis Costello hit "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding."
Prior to leaving the stage, Earle said he'd be back on another tour in the fall before returning to the studio. "I've got another album to make," he said. Thankfully for fans, it seems he'll never be satisfied.—JM