Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
bout the only thing that slowed down John Hiatt in recent years was COVID in keeping him off the road. That didn't mean he wasn't busy. The veteran singer/songwriter, who turns 70 in August, collaborated with Dobro master Jerry Douglas on the very fine "Leftover Feelings," which came out last year.
Douglas may not have been in the house, but Hiatt and the Goners, his three-piece backing band, played new and very old in a well-delivered set.
Hiatt, in fact, jumped on "Leftover Feelings" out of the gate of his nearly 85-minute show with the lyrical "All the Lilacs in Ohio." No Douglas. No problem as Hiatt and band tore into the song. (truth be told: an earlier version of the song is also on his 2001 disc, "The Tiki Bar Is Open.")
From there, it was a case of reaching way back with songs like "Your Dad Did" and "Feels Like Rain" to the recent "Mississippi Phone Booth." Hiatt leaned very heavily on songs from more than three decades ago, playing four songs alone from 1988's "Slow Turning."
If there would be one fault, it would have served Hiatt well to turn to "Leftover Feelings" more. The new songs stand up very well.
No matter, though, because the reality was that Hiatt breathed life into the songs that he did perform. When he played hits like "Slow Turning" and "Drive South," one didn't get the sense of déją vu all over again from Hiatt. He gave more of a bluesy reading to the material, especially, of course, Bonnie Raitt's "Thing Called Love."
Hiatt never had the prettiest voice going. So, the fact that his vocals are a bit worn may not have been all that different from days of old.
The Goners were a crack band with Hiatt acknowledging at one point that he was the youngest of the four onstage. Landreth, who has had his own solo going for a while, goes way back with Hiatt, having played on three albums, including 1988's "Slow Turning." Landreth excelled on slide guitar throughout, adding the necessary bite, without overdoing it. He also got the chance to sing his own "Congo Square."
With a batch of songs that endure, Hiatt showed no signs of slowing down.
The one-man band called The Suitcase Junket opened with a short, but very satisfying 25-minute set. The artist, also known as Matt Lorenz, may come off a bit gimmicky at first glance, playing guitar, kick drum, whistling and more all by his lonesome.
But there's a lot more to Lorenz than that. He has a commanding voice that makes you want to listen, and his songs are well constructed. Obviously, he has a sense of humor about him considering his amalgamation of kitchen pots and the like, which are some of his instruments.
A purposeful novelty act, The Suitcase Junket is good enough to stand on his own. Nothing wrong with having fun while playing good music.