The first point of clarification for Alejandro Escovedo last night at the Kentucky Theatre was the name of his band. It wasn’t The Sincere Boys, which was the billing that appeared on the tickets, but The Sensitive Boys.
“We appreciate the sentiment, but that’s not really what we were going for,” he said regarding the moniker mixup. But let’s examine both names for a second.
Sincere? Escovedo and his bands have always been that. Last night was no exception with a performance that shifted from party-savvy guitar rock to elegiac acoustic works to a very engaging encore segment that combined elements of both.
Sensitive? Well, the show was that, as well, but not in ways one would anticipate. Five of the concert’s opening six songs came from Escovedo’s critically lauded Street Songs of Love, the latter of two recent albums Escovedo has cut locally at the Saint Claire Recording Company.
The first four songs – This Bed is Getting Crowded, Anchor, Tender Heart and Street Songs‘ title tune continue a fruitful songwriting partnership with Chuck Prophet rooted in themes of epic love and lust. They were, as Escovedo aptly described them, “songs about love as opposed to love songs.” All also possessed an ear crunching electric drive perhaps better suited to a club than the sit down environment of a theatre crowd that was engaged but a little stymied by the long wave of very loud unfamiliarity.
The sensitive nature of the show, however, came into play when its musical scope opened up with the last of the Street Songs. Escovedo prefaced Down in the Bowery with stories of his children, especially his punk-infatuated teenage son and the proudly coarse music he is making (“every so often you make out the words ‘hate’ and ‘father’ within the screams”). The album-closing Fort Worth Blue – a loving, semi-acoustic instrumental eulogy to the great Texas music songsmith Stephen Bruton, who died last year – nicely followed.
That brought the half-full Kentucky Theatre crowd to more familiar surroundings – namely songs that have become staples of Escovedo’s many Lexington performances over the past 14 years. The medley of Juarez and Rosalie was full of quietly lush Spanish lyricism, I Was Drunk sported a wild flamenco-esque breakdown by guitarist David Pulkingham and Sex Beat came drenched in a wash of electric soundscapes that morphed into an engrossing dub-style jam before leading into the more jagged gusto of Chelsea Hotel ’78.
The encore was a party unto itself – a loose, celebratory cover of The Rolling Stones staple Beast of Burden and a show closing Always a Friend done as a sing-a-long with Escovedo and band lined up in front of the stage playing only acoustic guitar and percussion. It was part folk meditation, part hullabaloo and, of course, all wildly sensitive.