by carl wilson

All the Young Dave Matthews Dudes
(Were Not at the Alejandro Escovedo Show)
(Plus: RIP Schroer; Polaris noms)

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When Alejandro Escovedo asked the crowd at the Mod Club last night whether any of us had seen him opening on the last Dave Matthews Band tour, he seemed surprised (and a bit amused) to find that not a single soul in the club had. Clearly it's reasonable for a performer to hope and expect that a crossover experience like that will bring new fans to their own shows, but Dave Matthews isn't as big a deal in Canada as he is south of the border, and the people who go to DMB shows aren't that likely to come to the Mod Club - despite it being a larger venue than anywhere else Alejandro's played in Toronto (I used to see him at Ted's Wrecking Yard, and he reminisced from the stage about playing the Ultrasound, which predates me), the sizable crowd last night was just the accumulated result of a slow building love affair between Alejandro and Toronto.

I wonder what he'd have done differently if he'd known. The set list and style of the performance last night was very much in summer-rock, even jam-bandish mode, with a lot of emphasis on guitar solos. Lead guitarist David Pulkingham certainly has the chops for the job, but he's more of a stylistic chameleon - while he can switch from blues bruising to flamenco-ish classical guitar, he doesn't make his own stamp on the music. Whereas when Alejandro plays even the simplest lick, it rings with his soulfulness. You could almost feel him urging Pulkingham on to reach in deeper, but I think he's too gentle a guy to play the disciplinarian. The cost, for me, was a much less emotionally moving show than I've ever gotten from Alejandro, who usually leaves me buzzing with feelings. But I couldn't really complain about the closing round of covers, exuberant versions of All the Young Dudes, Beast of Burden and I Wanna Be Your Dog that sent us out glowing into the summer heat. And it did get me excited about his new record - Real Animal, which chronicles his musical life from his days in the Nuns in San Francisco (opening for the Sex Pistols) through twang-rock bands of the 80s to days living in the Chelsea Hotel and then the Austin scene of the 1990s, people loved and lost, and so on.

I'll look forward to the next time he returns on his own, or with a string trio, or one of his other many versatile combinations, rather than the showbizzed-up version we saw last night. Although that may be awhile, since his recent very conspicuous endorsement by Bruce Springsteen might keep him in the arena-rock, er, arena for a while yet. (It's got to be a lot less painful than his last high-profile media appearance - getting the nod from George W Bush for his song "Castanets," which Alejandro said last night kept him from playing the song for a while.)

Much else to talk about - the death of Oliver Schroer. Owen (Final Fantasy) Pallett dropped me a line over the weekend to say how sad he was about his fellow violinist's death, and lamenting that Schroer's explorations weren't the kind that tend to attract Internet-music-fan attention; read the lovely final-days interview with Diane Flacks from the Toronto Star last week. And then of course there are the Polaris nominations - I'm half-tempted to rage against the outcome, but I'm afraid the leaning towards broadly appealing, smart youth rock (as opposed to non-rock genres, as well as pricklier rock sounds) is a product of the process that's involved in the Polaris, which I'm beginning to think is, well, perhaps too democratic for the award's good (imho).

The winner will depend on the makeup of the final 11-judge panel, of course, but if I were to bet now? I'd say Caribou.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, July 08 at 1:31 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

COMMENTS

I have the same feelings about Alejandro acoustic shows. I admire them, but once you've seen his musical ideas laid out with a large band, it's hard not to notice the missing density in the duo shows.

He opened one of the big stages at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year and played to a crowd that was staking out spots for Jimmy Buffett's closing set at the end of the day. The musical culture clash was pretty intense, and most obvious when he played "Chelsea" as a guy walked by me in floral print shirt with floaties on his arm and a pink flamingo strapped to his hatband. Alejandro and this guy clearly had fairly different musical pantheons. It was hard to hear how Alejandro changed anything for the arena/festival audience, though. The solos weren't longer for that show (nor the club show that night), and he didn't soften it up for the parrotheads. Wearing a black T-shirt, black jeans and cowboy boots, it was hard to see any compromise for the occasion that day.

Posted by Alex on July 9, 2008 4:45 PM

 

 

Stricken by the news about Oliver Schroer! I saw him play a bunch of times at Vancouver Folk Music Festival -- music like his is one of the reasons I keep going back -- beautiful musician, and seemed to be a kind person, a sort of calmly insatiable musical mind, happy -- happy! -- to play with anybody, from folkies to electronic experimenters to little kids just learning -- not a sappy happy, a calmly insatiable presence, and such chops and imagination! More of an experimentalist than a folkie himself (I've heard Tagaq at that festival several times too, and Veda Hille) -- what a loss, what sorrow!

Posted by john on July 8, 2008 7:28 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson