Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
lejandro Escovedo may have released what some consider his best album, "A Man Under the Influence," almost 17 years ago, but you wouldn't know it based on how fresh and alive it sounds today.
Escovedo, who is preparing a new album for release presumably later this year, played the disc from start to finish before embarking on a separate set of unique covers. That meant Escovedo started with the moody, table setting of "Wave" before the sweet sounds of the the upbeat "Rosalie." The songs sounded familiar, yet remarkably fresh.
It helped that Escovedo has his vocal skills intact - sufficiently smooth, but with enough edge. He also offered sharp guitar playing from time to time, although he was far from alone.
Seemingly as a bonus, some of the folks who played on the original were in Escovedo's large band, including producer Chris Stamey, who was credited with being a difference maker on the recording, and played bass in the live setting, Mitch Easter on guitar (he also engineered the original) and the always reliable Eric Heywood on pedal steel, who always provides the necessary sparkplug in making his instrument of choice come alive.
Escovedo showed up with a big band because he also employed a cellist and violinist to sweeten the sound, just as he did on the original. Horns were also part of the mix. The band sure made for a very good team.
Escovedo was part and parcel of a short PSA video and talk about hepatitis, which he suffered from for about two decades before seemingly being cured.
Escovedo then quickly turned to a short set mainly of covers, including David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" and "All the Young Dudes," Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel" and closing out the night with The Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll." The common thread was an odd one - most of the songs involved someone touched by cancer.
Escovedo and band were in a rocking mood, requisite of the songs - quite the change from the first set. One couldn't call it welcome based on how good the first set went, but it sure sounded good.
At 67, for Escovedo, this was a night where Escovedo dug into his past and showed that his influences have worn exceedingly well.
Stamey, perhaps best known for being a member of The dB's, also opened the night with a none-too-exciting set. The songs tended to pretty similar. Stamey just never seemed to be able to kick it up a notch.