By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Photo by Amy TheligHouse of Blues
Saturday, Feb. 12
Music in the cafés at night, and revolution in the air! Well, songs of revolution, anyway, from the pre-show spin of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" into Earle's own "The Revolution Starts Now," ending two hours later with a reprise of the latter tune and the Beatles' "Revolution."
And in the middle? Much musical and verbal pissed-off-ness from the stage, but no hurling of Molotovs by the whipped-up proletariat and no mass lynching of the leaders of the regime, as much as the audience would have been down with that. The Disney secret police would have quickly crushed the resistance, anyway.
Seems Earle had sensed the righteous rage of his people beforehand and sent opener Alison Moorer and her hypnotic, bungee-jumping cleavage out to sedate everybody. Oh, she was great and all, a lovely, face-punchingly powerful voice with heart-crushing songs that philosophized about life and love. (Sing something, Alison: "The hardest part of livin' is lovin', and the hardest part of leavin' is livin'." See?) But if you were perched above the stage like we were—and no matter what team you play for—all you'd remember were her impossibly pointy-toed boots and that bottomless neckline.
When Earle's set started, he kept bringing Moorer out just to make sure people didn't get too agitated by all his rantings. Or not. Politics are central to an Earle show these days, and most everyone was in complete solidarity with him—unlike Jackson Browne's crowd, who largely abandoned him when he started railing against Reagan during the '80s, Earle's popularity has actually increased with his outspokenness. And when he's got a skull and crossbones on his band's kick drum, with the bones replaced by a hammer and sickle, and when he's saying things like "I make a pretty good amount for a borderline Marxist," hell, yeah, that's outspoken. We only heard one wag opposed to this, some guy who blurted, "NO POLITICS, DUDE!," but he was outnumbered, maybe even dragged out and cornholed for all we know, since he was never heard from again.
Citizen Steve has a right to his opinions, natch, and we admit to nodding in agreement when he talked about how he doesn't think there will be a draft because "people who join the military are either people who can't get a job where they live or people who want to go to college but can't afford it, so if we continue with this domestic policy, we'll have an unlimited supply of cannon fodder"—this, right before he launched into the apropos "Rich Man's War." He prefaced "Harlan Man" with a pro-union remark and framed "Christmas In Washington"—maybe the best song he's penned since getting off the junk 10 years ago, a near-desperate plea for inspirational leaders we can believe in, as opposed to, you know, what we're stuck with now—with an admission that "Bill Clinton's the only Republican I voted for twice. I kinda miss him." It was even a tad moving when Earle got everybody to sing along on the tune, even if hardly anybody in the room knew who Emma Goldman and Joe Hill were. But it was a nice idea.
And it wasn't even as much about whop-you-on-the-skull politics as we're probably making you think. "Can't Remember If We Said Goodbye" was a total weeper; "Condi Condi," his skanky lust song to Mizz 'Leeza, was funnier than shit; and "Copperhead Road" and "F the CC" were balls-out guitar-rock extravaganzas. And it all ended with the beautifully pseudo-drunken splatter of "Sweet Virginia," simply because when you're overwhelmed by how deeply fucked-up the world is, sometimes the only antidote is the glorious power of vintage Stones. And for a few minutes there, at least, everything felt perfect and beautiful.