Gig review: ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO – Bush Hall, London, 5 April 2017

Alejandro Escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo is playing his first European shows with a  full band in over five years and tonight’s London show sees him roughly two thirds if the way through the tour.

Support comes from his back-up band for these dates, Don Antonio, who hail from Romagna, Italy. Don Antonio is led by guitarist/producer Antonio Gramentieri and the band played a set that mixed a twist on the rock ‘n’ roll dance standard the twist, trough to an extended guitar workout on a tune that wouldn’t look amiss on a Quentin Tarantino movie.

The four piece band play seamlessly together (comprising of a bassist, drummer/percussionist and sax/keys players plus the aforementioned Antonio) and Antonio makes a few between song speeches which give a little insight into the band’s musical background and influences. Very enjoyable opening set and despite what Antonio joked earlier from the stage English audiences don’t mind opening acts when they are as good as Don Antonio.

After a short break the band were back with Alejandro Escovedo and they launched into ‘Can’t Make Me Run’, a nice lively opener to the evening’s proceedings. Next up the foot stomping rocker ‘Shave The Cat’, one of the stand out songs from his latest album ‘Burn Something Beautiful’. The band play up a storm on this with Antonio and Alejandro trading off licks together and you can see Alejandro’s punk rock roots show up a little on this one, plus a love of good T.Rex riff!

The set isn’t all our rock ‘n’ roll though (much to the joy of a man near me who had his hands to his ears for most of the night like he was recreating Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ painting), as Alejandro switched to acoustic guitar for the poignant ‘Bottom Of Your Soul’ (co-written with Chuck Prophet of Green On Red fame). This one and the song dedicated to his son, ‘Sensitive Boys’, allowed the pace to ease off a little.

Alejandro is an affable character on stage regaling us with stories of how Austin, Texas has changed and become more commercialised and how his son calls his music ‘old peoples’ music’. Makes a change to have a musician so eloquent and keen to share his experiences with their audience, instead of ‘are you ready to rock London?’.

Despite the band only working with Alejandro for a few weeks they played a tight set and they are a very talented group, who obviously enjoyed performing together. Due to needing to get back on the train out of London I missed the last couple of songs, including an encore of the Leonard Cohen song ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’.

A great live performance with Alejandro Escovedo adding all sorts of musical styles into one big enjoyable mix. I would highly recommend you go and check him out in the live environment.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Pete Feenstra adds…

There’s a world weary hook on Alejandro Escovedo’s, “I Don’t Want To Play Guitar Anymore” from his current ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ album which is simply: “I wonder why I don’t even want to play guitar anymore when there’s no stories left to sing, at the end of everything.” And on the evidence of tonight’s show he really is the kind of guy who would walk away if he had nothing left to say.

Happily he’s got a truck load of suprisingly heavy-duty rockers, tempered by acoustic songs that map out some heartfelt narratives.

He’s a dapper story telling troubadour and post punk songsmith with an understated charisma. He’s an old school troubadour with a million stories that are brought to life in a wide musical landscape that stretches from the Velvet Underground to Tex Mex. He sometimes colours his songs with some Neil Young style guitar avalanches, over which in his more raw moments he phrases like a monotone Wilko Johnson.

He’s a roots rocker who opens with a thundering wall of sound, and lashing of guitar on the bass heavy ‘Can’t Make Me Run’. It moves from a sub reggae rhythm to an enveloping guitar driven psychedelia as he adds a wiry post Dylan vocal that draws you into the call and response line of: “don’t give up on love”.

He rocks out on ‘Shave The Cat’ – complete with a T Rex riff – and switches to an acoustic for the kind of song that made Austin the home to a thousand songwriters. But for me the best moments come when he peels off the wallpaper with some Keith Richard style riffling on ‘Castanets’ which features a punk style call and response.

And as he tears into his set and is joined by John Perry from the Only Ones, you quietly think that maybe punk did offer us more than just safety pins and gobbing
Game, set and match to the Texas troubadour!

Tour dates:

Thursday 06 April The Maze, Nottingham
Friday 07 April Stereo, Glasgow
Saturday 08 April Caedmon Hall, Gateshead
Sunday 09 April The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Tuesday 11 April Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland
Wednesday 19 April Buckley’s Pub, Oslo, Norway
Thursday 20 April Madam Felle, Bergen, Norway
Saturday 22 April Folk å Rock, Malmö, Sweden

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Power Plays w/c 16 April 2018

DON AIREY All Out Of Line (earMUSIC)
LAST GREAT DREAMERS 13th Floor Renegades (Ray Records)
SMOKING MARTHA Ebb Of The Tide (indie)
WEEND’O Angel Dust (Sonicbond)
TED & MAJELLA Instairs (Turneround Music)

Featured Albums w/c 16 April (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 HARTMANN Hands On The Wheel (Pride & Joy Music)
12:00-13:00 THE DEAD DAISIES Break It Down (SPV)
14:00-16:00 THE KATE GEE BAND Legacy (indie)

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