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LIVE: STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES, Perth – 11 March 2016

| 15 March 2016 | Reply

LIVE: STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES, Perth – 11 March 2016
The Astor Theatre, Perth, Western Australia – Friday, 11 March, 2016
Review & photography by Shane Pinnegar

Steve Earle Live Perth 11 March 2015 by Shane Pinnegar (2)

He’s been an alcoholic. He’s been a junkie, and he’s even done jail time Most of all, though, he’s been a writer of songs and a teller of stories, and over two hours on the Astor stage Steve Earle holds the full house in the palm of his hand.

The crowd are ready by the time husband & wife duo The Mastersons finish their opening set. Members of Earle’s band The Dukes, they start assumedly sedate but quickly beguile the audience with the raw beauty of their tunes.

Earle’s raspy twang carried all the weight of the life he’s lived, and his tales – whether autobiographical or carefully crafted fictions – carry equal parts humour and regret, passion and sorrow, optimism and defeat.

A raspy duet with violinist Eleanor Whitmore (half of The Mastersons) on Baby’s Just As Mean As Me ironically counterpoints a group of rowdies up the back, but Earle pays them no heed: he’s here for the music and the stories, as are everyone else in the room.

American rock n’ roll, country and blues all run through Earle’s veins like blood, and in the purest distillation of the term he embodies true rebel punk spirit, where punk is all about attitude and drive.

So through his marathon set we are treated to rock n’ rollers, minimalist blues, country honks and more.

My Old Friend The Blues starts sparsely before the band join in and raise it to something that would have sat comfortably on Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night.

Earle’s biggest hit in Australia at least, Copperhead Road, garners a resounding cheer – hardly surprising, it’s still played on the radio a hundred times a day. His hillbilly twang perfectly suits the song and its biting commentary about the war on drugs and the war against Vietnam. It’s a classic song delivered brilliantly by a wonderful band.

Earle gets chattier as the show progresses, introducing drummer Brad Pember who is playing his first show with the band, “not that you’d know it,” and Ms Whitmore as the one “seriously diluting the ugly up here,” and comparing his own looks for those of the late Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg. It’s this amiable, self-deprecating honesty that makes Earle such an easy rock star to identify with, and when he introduces Goodbye as “the first song I ever wrote sober” you can’t help but feel for him and relate to his struggles. It’s a beautiful paen to lost love and a lost part of his life.

Steve Earle Live Perth 11 March 2015 by Shane Pinnegar (5)

He’s a funny and engaging chap, completely at home on the stage as he pours out his craft and talent for all those who care. About several ‘chick songs’, he declares “some girls argue over which song’s about them, but they’re all wrong: actually, they’re all about me.” There’s some insight into the songwriting process from a man who has been married seven times!

The addition of accordion. Fiddle and Earle playing a “fine Australian mandolin” makes live favourite Galway Girl a foot stomping Celtic romp. While the regretful South Nashville Blues is an upbeat blues that Earle feels necessary to postscript, “the problem with that song is that it has a fatal flaw: it makes that part of my life seem like a lot more fuckin’ fun than it was,” and goes on to play the bottom-of-the-barrel down-and-outter Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain to remind him of the harsh truth of his addictions.

Go Go Boots is a fun Cramps-alike rockabilly stomp, followed by Better Off Alone a song so heart-wrenchingly beautiful and simple that its crafting must have been anything but, and the set culminates with a rollicking King Of The Blues and an interpretation of the traditional Hey Joe which tears the stage apart like a lit fuse as the guitarists all fire up.

After such an incendiary musical finale to the set, Earle gets political with encore Mississippi, It’s Time, telling the crowd that the song was written in response to the state of Mississippi refusing to remove the Confederate Battlejack from their state flag. Referencing the current U.S. political debate he dejectedly sighs, “believe it or not, it isn’t a reality TV program – it’s a country.”

His whiskey soaked voice is crystal clear as a bell here, ringing time on an out of doubt political notion, and prompting a standing ovation as the band take a bow after a magical, entertaining and thought provoking night.

Set List:
Baby
You’re The Best Lover
Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now
Baby’s Just As Mean As Me
Love’s Gonna Blow My Way
My Old Friend The Blues
Someday
Guitar Town
Copperhead Road
Goodbye
Sparkle & Shine
I Thought You Should Know
The Galway Girl
Little Emperor
Acquainted With The Wind
South Nashville Blues
CCKMP (Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain)
Fourty-Four
The Usual Time
That All You Got?
Go Go Boots
Better Off Alone
The Tennessee Kid
King Of The Blues
Hey Joe
Mississippi, It’s Time

Shane

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