in performance: alejandro escovedo

alejandro escovedo

Well, he made it. That was a start -a big start, really, given the sort of Arctic tundra conditions that gripped Lexington during the midway point of a brutal winter storm last night.

After an eight hour road haul from Charlottesville, Virginia, Alejandro Escovedo returned to town to make The Dame a beacon of life in a downtown surrounded by mounting power outages and an incessant, icy rain that turned any exposed street or sidewalk surface into a makeshift ski slope.

Fronting a solid electric quartet, Escovedo served up a tight, 90 minute set of remarkable contrasts. Taking the stage to the recorded tune of the classic George Jones country elegy, He Stopped Loving Her Today, Escovedo ripped into the celebratory rock ‘n roll of Always a Friend and quickly revealed his band’s secret weapon – guitarist David Pulkingham.

A key proponent of Escovedo’s more ornate acoustic music – a credential nicely enforced last night on Juarez, the lovely prelude instrumental to Rosalie – Pulkingham has become equally at home with the singer’s crankier music. He juggled boogie riffs with Esvovedo as Everybody Loves Me fell almost menacingly into place, added manic slide breaks on an encore cover of The Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man and triggered a flamenco-savvy breakdown in the midst of the waltz turns of I Was Drunk. Generally, Pulkingham served as an able foil for the singer, although longtime drummer Hector Munoz remained in the rhythmic driver’s seat throughout  the concert.

Escovedo, as usual, seemed cheery and at ease with the change of tempo and temperament that infused a repertoire devoted heavily to music from 2008’s Real Animal and 2001’s A Man Under the Influence. The quieter acoustic strains of Sensitive Boys and the scrappy, punkish charge of Real as an Animal underscored the range of the former album while the set-closing party anthem Castanets, from the latter record, remained a testament to the elemental but persuasive rock ‘n roll spirit that is a constant in Escovedo’s best songs.

As usual, there was a fun surprise at encore time. Having dedicated tunes throughout the show to fallen heroes like The Stooges’ Ron Asheton (who died earlier this month) and The Clash’s Joe Strummer, Escovedo honored another giant. On Warren Zevon’s She’s Too Good For Me – performed as a somber, spacious duet with Pulkingham – Escovedo turned inward and poetic in a way that so often reflects his own fine music. Here, before cheery covers of Mott the Hoople and the Rolling Stones tunes closed the night down, the nod to Zevon was like a momentary meditation in a rock ‘n roll brawl that nicely branded about 90 minutes of honest warmth into an evening literally frozen by the nastiest winter weather of the season.



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