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No showbiz from Crenshaw, Sobule, just a fantastic show

Alex Theatre, Glendale, Cal., February 10, 2024

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Marshall Crenshaw is calling his current tour "40 Years In Showbiz! (1982 – 2022)," and it's difficult to believe he's been at it that long already. After all, he still sings with such a youthful voice. That voice was in fine form, however, in front of an enthusiastic house.

Crenshaw inserted two very different cover songs early in his set. After doing his best Buddy Holly imitation for "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," Crenshaw took on the long and wordy "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream," remembering every word of this witty and complicated stream of melodic dialogue. Much of the rest of his set was filled with wonderful early songs, like the skeptical love song, "Cynical Girl," as well as the well spent with "You're My Favorite Waste Of Time."

With a three-piece backing band – a second guitar, bass, and drums – Crenshaw accompanied himself on an amoeba-shaped, red electric guitar. Crenshaw rocks harder in concert than on record, exemplified by his cover of Grant Hart's "2541." His band plays all his songs like a well-oiled machine, and visibly enjoys performing with the diminutive frontman. This audience had a great time, especially one mature woman in pigtails dancing wildly like a schoolgirl toward the end of the set. Who knows, she could have been the original inspiration for Crenshaw's early song, "She Can't Dance." Unfortunately, that song didn't make the set list tonight. Nevertheless, everything he did perform sounded wonderful.

Jill Sobule opened the show only accompanying herself on guitar. She may not have had the benefit of a backing group, but she sure made a pretty good one-woman band. She plays guitar especially well and tells wonderful between-song stories. One of her best songs tonight was titled "Where is Bobbie Gentry?," and is about the elusive, mysterious country star that suddenly stopped performing. Some have said she just lost interest. Sobule's song is smartly written and played in musical style that immediately brings the Gentry single "Ode to Bille Joe" to mind. Another highlight included the music-loving "I Put My Headphones On."

This pairing turned out to be an excellent double bill. It's too band Sobule didn't come back to sing one or two with Crenshaw. Other than that, though, no complaints here. This wasn't showbiz. No, it was a fantastic show.

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