Electric Shaver in every sense of the word
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., July 23, 1999
By Stuart Munro
SOMERVILLE, MA - If you noticed a sudden dimming of the lights around 10:30 Friday night, well, that's about the time Eddy Shaver plugged in at Johnny D's and began to draw down the New England power grid. Shaver, a band 'slinger Eddy aptly describes as "a power trio combined with one of the world's great songwriters," is back on record and on tour, and both Shavers were in vintage form.
Billy Joe was full of his usual loquacity, regaling the crowd around and occasionally during songs, joking, gesticulating, praying and testifying, crouching, prowling, staggering and wandering out to visit with audience members during his son's extended solos. He informed us that his tour truck had eaten his boots, that he "has poetry in him and it's got to come out," that the increase in the price of Thunderbird wine was the cause of inflation; he also sang the hell out of his songs.
Son Eddy was also at the top of his game; he constantly comes close to going over the top, but his amazing inventiveness and flat-out gutbucket twang makes it easy to overlook his tendency to self-indulgence.
Surprisingly, given that their latest release is only a few months old, Shaver played almost nothing new -"new" being a relative term, given Shaver's penchant for recycling and reworking old songs on each new release; so, besides "People and Their Problems," we got the latest version of "Thunderbird," which originally showed up on the 1976 release "When I Get My Wings."
Instead, the band offered a best-known collection, "Georgia on a Fast Train," "Honky Tonk Heroes," "Black Rose," "Old Chunk of Coal," "Hottest Thing in Town," and "Sweet Mama" among them.
There was a brief acoustic interlude, including a poignant version of "Live Forever," which Billy Joe seemed to sing with his mother, who passed away three weeks ago, in mind (he also began the evening by singing "Restless Wind" unaccompanied in memory of a recently-deceased musician and friend, Steve Davis).
Other than that, it was full-tilt, full-throttle right through; unlike the lackluster show that the band put on last visit, this was electric Shaver, in every sense of the word.