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BR5-49 honky tonks with style

Galaxy Theater, Santa Ana, Cal., Feb. 4, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

SANTA ANA, Cal. - Three songs into its set, BR5-49 played "Even If It's Wrong" from it's self-titled release, but on this night the group could hardly do anything wrong.

This five-piece retro looking and sounding band turned this former dinner theater into a hopping dancehall with the simple formula of great songs and spot-on musicianship.

The set list included almost all of its debut EP "Live From Roberts," about half of its full-length CD and enough covers the fill up the omnipresent tip jar by the end of the night.

Of course, many of these "covers" could have been unrecorded new songs for all we knew, since the group's repertoire almost always comes through with an authentic feel.

When it comes to choosing covers, BR5-49 sure knows how to pick 'em. This night found them capturing the mournful spirit of the traditional "Long Black Veil," riding the lively Billy Joe Shaver classic "Georgia On A Fast Train" and burning it up with Hank Williams' "Setting The Woods On Fire." And these were just the unrecorded numbers!

They also turned in a lovely version of Ralph Mooney and Chuck Seals' "Crazy Arms," which served as the evening's sweetheart dance.

The songs that made the crowd dance, or laugh, or both, were the obvious audience favorites.

"Me 'N Opie" and "Bettie Plug" had the few hundred in attendance swinging their partners on this Wednesday night. Unfortunately, it would have been more fun to see the house - which holds a maximum of 550 - full and sweaty, and enjoying these sounds shoulder-to-shoulder.

Nonetheless, BR5-49 gave the people their money's worth by playing a few dozen songs in it's satisfying hour-and-a-half show. Maybe next time folks will turn the place into a standing room only honky tonk.

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