in performance: alejandro escovedo

alejandro escovedo.

Slapping together The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog with a comparatively recent original, Chelsea Hotel ’78, seemed like an unlikely move as Alejandro Escovedo’s performance last night at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville hit the half way point.

The former has been a favored cover tune by the Texas songsmith for as long as he has been playing in Kentucky (roughly 15 years). But last night he disengaged from the song’s plentiful power chords and recalibrated the tune with a slower, metal-esque swagger. That his vocals were purposely mutated by muddy distortion was a bonus. The latter tune, from the 2008 album Real Animal, became something of a guitar shredders’ paradise with new guitarist Billy White and Escovedo trading off scorched, fractured solos that cracked what had been a quite orderly rock show wide open.

“That pretty much sums up how we feel about rock ‘n’ roll,” Escovedo said after this 12 minute electric firestorm died down. No argument there.

Granted, Escovedo had a bigger agenda for evening – namely the introduction of five songs from his soon-to-released Big Station album. The new music revealed greater stylistic variety than any Escovedo recording since 2001’s A Man Under the Influence.

The show-opening Sally Was a Cop was a nicely textured guitar meditation, Man of the World was introduced as being influenced by Eddie Cochran (even though it sounded like Iggy Pop), Can’t Make Me Run fortified it’s Sonny Liston-inspired storyline with a Heathen-era David Bowie beat, San Antonio Rain let a tasty guitar disturbance rupture a neatly folkish façade and the encore of Sabor A Mi had Escovedo crooning in Spanish.

The only nods to pre-Real Animal material came with the expected crowd pleaser Castanets and a jacked up run through of Crooked Frame that put the newest lineup of Escovedo’s Sensitive Boys band – White, drummer Chris Searles and mainstay bassist Bobby Daniel – through the paces.

Some songs (Anchor, from 2010’s Street Songs of Love) possessed greater immediacy than others (an encore version of The Rolling Stones’ Beast Of Burden with show opener Jesse Malin that simply imploded). But that earlier medley, where Escovedo’s still-vital rock ‘n’ roll heart roared beside the spirit of The Stooges, more than justified the Sunday night road rip. It’s comforting to know that Escovedo, after all these years, still wants to be your dog.

Alejandro Escovedo performs again at 7 tonight with Joseph Arthur at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main St. for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Admission is $10. Call (859) 252-8888.

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