his night was an especially emotional one for Dave Alvin, and it showed. The end date of his coheadlining tour with Jimmie Dale Gilmore was a hometown gig, of sorts, at the historic Troubadour. Not only did Alvin survive the pandemic, but he also overcame prostate cancer.
Until he finished treatment for cancer, he wasn't sure if a severe case of neuropathy would allow him to ever play guitar again. Maybe that was why he attacked his electric guitar with such a vengeance this night. He played loud and proud, all night long. It was certainly the loudest backing band Gilmore has fronted for quite some time. As Alvin put it, these players are just an R&B band, at heart, and this long evening of music was one filled with soulful originals and covers.
Many of these unique performers' best-known songs were performed, including "King of California" and "4th of July" by Alvin, and "Dallas" and "Tonight, I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown," from Gilmore.
But it was the covers that made the evening especially entertaining. Gilmore's distinct singing voice gave Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" a wonderfully unusual flavor, while Alvin's rearrangement of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" made you listen to its tricky lyrics in a whole new way.
Backed by a keyboardist, drummer, bassist and second guitarist, Alvin and Gilmore were joined by a group of extremely flexible players. They could rev it up, as they did for an encore on the Blasters' "Marie, Marie," but could also play quietly and thoughtfully on the story song, "Billy the Kid and Geronimo" and the U.S./Mexico border commentary of "Borderland." Gilmore spoke rarely, but Alvin talked often and sounded sincerely thankful for his bandmates, his fans and the renewed opportunities to continue touring.
Alvin called the pair's cover of The Youngbloods' "Get Together" both timeless and timely, while he jokingly referred to the just-prior-to-the-holiday rendering of "4th of July" merely timely. However, it can safely be said that Alvin and Gilmore are both timeless and timely. Their songs have an eternal shelf life and are certainly appropriate medicine for our current troubled times.