Gig review: Steve Earle at St David's Hall, Cardiff
A new father at the age of 55 and making a pretty good living “for a borderline Marxist”, Steve Earle seems happier in himself than he has sometimes been in the past. He’s not done with shouting out about the way the world is, especially regarding US foreign policy, but his preoccupations seem to be closer to home nowadays.
“My intention is to be the best father that I can be at this point in my life,” Earle told the crowd, speaking of five-month-old John Henry, who is at home with his mother Alison Moorer this year, but is likely to start touring with the couple in 2011.
Still, Earle isn’t skimping on the performances, either. In a near-two-hour solo set he offered up a wide sample of his career, from old classics like “Copperhead Road” and “Ain’t Ever Satisfied” to his not-yet-published but Emmy-nominated song “This City”, written for the TV series Tremé in which he also appears.
Though the tour T-shirts still have the word “Townes” on them, Earle played only a handful of songs from his most recent album, covers of the songs of his friend and “teacher” Townes Van Zandt. But they included the classic “Pancho and Lefty” – Earle likened tackling that song to knocking down the biggest guy in the exercise yard on your first day in prison. “If you manage to do it, you get to keep your radio.”
Earle is on a five-venue, four-country tour of the British Isles (the second Scottish show, in the Shetlands, is to make up for one that was cancelled by the weather last year). It was only his second ever show in Wales, but to much cheering he promised the audience he planned to be back often. Though he maybe wasn’t at his very best, the simple quality of Earle’s music and his performance, as well as the intimacy of a solo show, made for an very enjoyable evening.
This review shouldn’t end without also making mention of the support, excellent Welsh singer-songwriter Christopher Rees. It was a daunting venue for a solo performance but he handled it very well, filling the auditorium with his strong guitar and banjo work and his appealing murder ballads and bluesy country, and managing audience participation possibly even more successfully than Earle. He maybe needs to work on the transitions between songs but otherwise Rees was a unexpected pleasure and worth checking out.