Alejandro Escovedo And The Sensitive Boys,
5th July 2012
With fans such as Bruce Springsteen & Joe Strummer it’s surprising to find that Alejandro Escovedo isn’t far better known than he actually is. Especially when you consider how good his live show is, something Joe Whyte was lucky enough to have confirmed just two days ago.
Alejandro Escovedo should be hugely famous, simple as that.
As a member of The Nuns, he opened for the Sex Pistols at their last ever show at The Winterland in San Francisco. He lived in The Chelsea Hotel with Sid and Nancy and witnessed their demise. He’s toured with Springsteen who, along with long-time friend, Joe Strummer, counts himself as a huge fan.
Tonight’s show, with full band, is a departure from Escovedo’s more recent solo acoustic endeavours.
The Sensitive Boys sport a razor-sharp, booted and besuited bad-ass look. Escovedo himself is a bequiffed, skinny, black clad, and imposing figure. His face wears the years like the pages of a well-worn book. Strapping himself into his guitar, he takes the audience on a tour of his road- worn stories.
Escovedo has enough previous to fuel the dark, layered stories and the wild places his songs inhabit. A long battle with hepatitis saw artists such as Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and The Jayhawks record a benefit album to offset the medical bills. Hard times in hometown Austin, Texas contrasted wildly with the years of almost going mainstream.
Without a word, the band steam into Sally Was A Cop. This strident, urgent song has chopping, slashing guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Clash record. Guitarist Billy “Blanco”Â White’s fret- searing runs lead the song off into an almost psychedelic coda. Anchor maintains the energetic punk rock rush and this opening blitzkrieg seems to leave some of the Americana/country fans slightly dazed. Escovedo’s last Glasgow show was an acoustic evening and this hurricane of sound is leaving some people a tad confused.
There has always been a glam element to some of his work, particularly his Buick Mackane side project. This is evident tonight, with some songs having that 70’s stomp courtesy of drummer Chris Searles. There is, however, nothing lightweight or throwaway about Escovedo’s songwriting. Co-writing new album Big Station with ex-Green On Red guitarist Chuck Prophet, the album deals with the poverty and political upheaval in his home country, Mexico.
San Antonio Rain is a gentle beast. A paean to the town of his birth, it’s space and sweet refrain are a welcome touch. The backing harmonies from the band are tight, neat and perfect.
Down In The Bowery sees Escovedo dedicate the song to his seven children. He tells us the only thing that the family all agree on is their shared love of Da Brudders Ramone. Now that’s raising a family.
Sister Lost Soul is a hymn to punk rock friends lost to drugs. Escovedo sings it like it sounds. Heartfelt, damned and road-weary.
With a bullhorn vocal intro of I Wanna Be Your Dog, set closer Chelsea Hotel 78 is a rollicking, steamroller of a song whose lyrics about the characters and entourage around Vicious as his curtain drew are particularly poignant. Escovedo knew these people and his storytelling and literate, poetic words bring those days back to life.
Guitar-mangling soloing from the band, followed by busted strings a-gogo brings the set to a close.
Returning for Mr Strummers favourite, Castanets, Escovedo leads the audience in a sing-along. The Glasgow crowd lap it up.
Stereo is a soaked, sweaty and very happy place aprÃÂ¨s gig. Alejandro congratulates me on my LAMF t-shirt.
Me, I’m just happy I witnessed another life-affirming show from a man who should be a household name.
All words Joe Whyte. More articles by Joe can be found here.