Monday, May 5, 2008
I've been looking forward to seeing Son Volt play live for over a decade now. It seems like whenever they came to town it was always when I had other plans. Opening act Bobby Baer Jr. (son of a 60's Country music star) was pretty good, sounding like vintage Neil Young on many tracks.
Farrar opened the show playing about the first 8 or 9 songs on acoustic guitar. And then he went electric and rocked out most of the rest of the set. "The Picture" was kind of flat on just acoustic guitar and harmonica, without the horn section like on the record. But I suppose it's not economical to bring horn players along with you on tour for one song.
It was a tad disappointing that "Slate" was the only Uncle Tupelo song that managed to find its way into the set, after they had been playing at least a few other UT songs at most shows on this tour - including the usual show closer "Chickamauga" along with "Life Worth Livin.'" Having missed the boat on Uncle Tupelo when they were still around, I always like to hear as many of these songs live as possible. Jeff Tweedy brought a handful of these songs to Wilco setlists in the mid 90's, but they haven't really played any UT songs since around 2000. Although I do sort of remember "We've Been Had" at a 2003 show. But Tweedy still plays a handful of UT songs at his solo acoustic shows. And now it appears Son Volt's Jay Farrar has buried most of the UT songs too. But "Slate" was a such pleasant surprise. Before this current tour, I would bet he hasn't played that song live since around 1997 or 1998.
And anyway, the set closer - the cover of Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" regularly made it into UT's live sets done in the UT way by making a country song sound like a punk rock song. And it was included as a bonus track on the reissues of their material a few years ago. So that was sort of like an honorary UT song.
Most of the set focused on Son Volt's last 2 albums. And in general I thought they would play more from the first 3 Son Volt albums. But I can't complain, since their last 2 albums were so good. Overall, I thought they did a good job of playing a little bit from everything, along with some tracks on these older albums that they haven't played much lately. Of course, "Windfall" and "Drown" are expected at just about every show - the only semi-hits they've ever had.
As mentioned earlier the spirit of Neil Young appeared to dominate both Bobby Baer's and Son Volt's set. Young was called the "Godfather of Grunge" back in the 1990's, when Pearl Jam and others cited him as a big influence. And when you hear a band like Son Volt (or really Uncle Tupelo and those who followed) play live, you can hear all of Young's influences updated for the next generation. These artists were fans of the artists who influenced Neil Young, Neil Young himself, and also a lot of punk rock. But that in a blender, mix, and pour it into a large glass and serve. And then you have the Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt sound in a nutshell.
1. The Picture
2. Underground Dream
3. Exurbia (bonus track from The Search)
4. Hanging Blue Side
7. Beacon Soul
8. Big Sur (new song on a soundtrack for movie about Jack Kerouac)
9. Highways and Cigarettes
11. Tear-Stained Eye
12. The Search
13. Jet Pilot
14. Automatic Society
16. Bandages & Scars
19. Afterglow 61
21. Voodoo Candle (rocking version)
23. Six Days on the Road (Dave Dudley cover)
25. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? (Waylon Jennings cover)
Song breakdown by album:
Non-album tracks - 3
Uncle Tupelo songs - 1
1995's Trace - 3
1997's Straightaways - 1
1998's Wide Swing Tremolo - 1
2001's Sebastopol (Jay Farrar solo album) - 1
2005's Okemah and the Melody of Riot - 5
2007's The Search - 9
2007's The Search (bonus track EP) - 1