On Further Review
by Emmery Brakke
the Middle East 7/19/10
the Middle East 7/19/10
a powerful performance from Alejandro Escovedo
When I found out I was going to be covering the Alejandro Escovedo show at The Middle East on Monday, July 19th I was beyond excited. I was finally going to have the chance to do what every teenager (I am almost 19 now) who has spent any amount of time in the Boston scene desperately awaits... attending the Middle East for the First Time. Ok, so I’m almost 19, so the fact that I hadn’t been yet is a little embarrassing. But I couldn’t wait for the chance to finally go to an 18-plus music club, to blend in and not feel like a child. Well, I picked the wrong show for that dream... when I walked proudly up to the table and the girl crossed my name off the list and tied a pink bracelet to my belt loops, I had absolutely no idea that I was walking into the high school reunion of the class of 1955.
During his set, Escovedo acknowledged as much, proclaiming his art was “old people’s music.” This put me in a difficult position. But it's hard for anyone with a heart for music not to fall in love with someone who is such a genuine talent and honest performer. Escovedo is all of these things and more. Maybe I’m an old soul, or maybe I’m just the exception to the rule, but he certainly won me over. But I wouldn’t sell him short by advertising it as “old people’s music”. When I found out I was going to the show I told my cousin, who immediately responded “Have fun, that guy rocks!”. I’d say that’s about as accurate as it gets, so let’s roll with it.
And Escovedo proved the point, putting on a live show with enough energy to rival any of the younger performers out there. Case in point; he completely blew his opening act, the alluring but generally underwhelming Megan McCormick, out of the water. McCormick, a talented musician with strong vocals, fell short for me because her overall performance lacked power. It felt very uninspired-which was the antithesis of Escovedo’s set. It was impossible not to get sucked into the contagious vigor of “Castanets”, a crowd sing-a-long favorite, or the incredible “Five Hearts Breaking” which may have been one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen by any musician, never mind one who probably gets a senior discount on his movie tickets.
Escovedo has made quite a name for himself and created quite a fan base around his modernized punk style, and while the energetic rock performances which dominated the show were impressive and fun, the high points came in the form of a Phillip Seymour Hoffman look-alike and a Crazy Heart worthy ballad. David Pulkingham, who bears a striking and very entertaining resemblance to the aforementioned actor, completely blew my mind with his mesmerizing back and forth guitar solos with Escovedo. Although solo wouldn’t really be the correct term to describe the interaction between the two performers-it felt more like witnessing a private and incredibly emotional musical conversation. The emotional honesty and the amount of passion and authenticity that exuded from these two men while they performed was rivaled only by the heart wrenching “Sister Lost Soul”. The only toned down performance of the night, Escovedo dedicated this stripped down tribute to songwriter Stephen Bruton, who passed away last May, and the country tinged song kept even this raucous crowd silent with respect for four minutes.