Jeff Bridges and The Abiders The Coach House April 24, 2014
The patrons who had come to see Jeff Bridges and the Abiders were an eclectic bunch: teens in Converse, cowboys and bikers, middle-aged upper middle class folks, and jet set Hollywood types. The colorful and expansive (yet cozy) venue filled to capacity within a half hour of opening time so that guests could snag good spots along the expansive barbeque benches that occupied most of the floor space.
Bridges stepped up and greeted the crowd at eight o'clock. At this time, the first of the random yahoos began contributing their Lebowski references to the evening's sonic environment. Bridges introduced his daughter Jessie as his opening act, and she and her accompanist took the stage. For the next 40 minutes, she warmed us up with a series of introspective songs that ranged in styles and carried the audience from joyful to wistful places.
The senior Bridges and his band stepped onstage at around 9:20 p.m. the main attraction entertained the crowd during a nearly 2-hour set, with almost as diverse a range of material as the spectrum of characters the Academy Award-winning actor has played. Granted, there was nothing nearly as dark and disturbing as Barney Cousins from The Vanishing, but some of the songs, such as "1000 Year Plan," did veer into the science fiction arena.
Many of the numbers almost seemed as if they were executed by different characters of Bridges's acting oeuvre. This is not surprising since, in addition to the numerous original tunes he played, a decent portion of the set list included songs that he had performed in the film Crazy Heart - including "Fallin & Flyin" and "Weary Kind" (which he sang, as an encore, with his daughter). Beyond the vocal modes of each of the songs, the musical styles ran the gamut from country to garage band rock with a nice sprinkling of psychedelia (special props are due to the licks of The Abiders' lead guitarist, Chris Pelonis), and when Bridges and The Abiders weren't laying down solid grooves, their melodies brought us to peaceful and melancholic places.
Bridges's personability charmed the crowd as he took his time introducing each of the songs and telling stories about them all through the set. Of course, some of the songs had been written by T Bone Burnett, but a good deal of them had been co-composed by Bridges and his childhood friend John Goodwin. One of the origin stories involved a song which had been co-written, with Goodwin, over Skype.
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In addition to the name of Bridges's backing band (and the fairly constant tricklings of "Hey Dude!" exclamations from the audience), there were a couple of distinct nods to the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski in the set. Although one could argue that Bridges does not possess the musical chops of John Fogerty, this would not be evident by the reception of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lookin' Out My Back Door." But then, his music does come from the heart, and that carries it some distance. Beyond that, Bridges is a first-class entertainer. His naturalistic approach to putting on a musical show is as evident as has been frequently remarked about his acting style. Thus, while technical critics may be just as harsh on his musical skills as his ability to remember the words to all the songs in his set, Bridges is clearly comfortable doing what he does, and his music and affability were warmly and universally received by all of the patrons at The Coach House.