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Steve Earle and crowd stand ready to take on the world

House Of Blues, Hollywood, Cal., Jan. 23, 2003

By Dan MacIntosh

HOLLYWOOD, CA - When Steve Earle put his back to the riser and made his stand, just the way he sings it in his old song "Guitar Town," he did so on this particular night with an observable air of self-confidence. But then again, anyone supporting an album as strong as "Jerusalem," which is Earle's latest studio offering, couldn't help but feel ready to take on the world.

Earle began his two-hour show with "Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)" and "What's A Simple Man To Do," both from the new CD.

These songs are suitably representative of Earle's album-wide concern over the current state of America's soul in post-9/11 America. And without missing a beat, Earle stated that he has the right to feel bummed as long as he'd like to as way of introduction to "My Old Friend The Blues," the first older song of the night.

Although Earle played almost everything from the new album, mostly at the beginning and at the end, he also found room for songs from almost all of his albums during a satisfying 25-song set. Highlights included a raw singing of the death row lament, "Billy Austin," and his song for the union men of the world, "Harlan Man." He also performed standards like "Copperhead Road" and "Guitar Town," just like he always does. Such typical Earle behavior hasn't quite sunk in with one particular fan, as he consistently yelled out for "Guitar Town" from note one. Hasn't he ever seen an Earle show before?

The Dukes (Earle's band) included Will Rigby on drums and Eric Ambel - who dressed the rock & roll part with striped pants hugging his skinny little legs - on guitar. This unit gave selections from the rocking "Transcendental Blues" all the extra hard rock kick they required, yet it was equally empathetic on the much more twangy elements (such as "Good Old Boy (Getting' Tough)") in the set.

Earle is at such an artistic high point; it's going to be tough for the singer/songwriter to drop "Jerusalem" from his set once newer material comes along. But for now, it's a special treat for audiences to ride this high right along with him.

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