Lucero, Shovels and Rope
Park Theatre Café, Winnipeg, MB
Friday, March 29th, 2013
It was a cold night when Lucero and Shovels and Rope pulled into Winnipeg to deliver a solid show of good country and rock music to a sold out theatre. LTW’s guy in Winnipeg, Chris Hearn, was there.
What an absolutely brilliant night of music at probably one of my favourite venues in the city, even though the sound isn’t always the best. Yes, Lucero has a habit, I find, of sounding the same from song to song. Lead singer Ben Nichols has a cool, raspy, gravely, thousands cigarettes a day voice, but it isn’t exactly versatile. At points, you end up thinking, “Didn’t they just play this song?” Regardless of this detail, they are still a great live act, and sound so good.
The night started off with Shovels and Rope (Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst), a duo that has received a ton of hype and for good reason. They really are absolutely amazing. And they blew the doors off the place with their energetic and passionate playing. They play hard, and they play well, with wonderful harmonies, great songwriting, and a sense of indie cool that seems to come naturally as opposed to being forced. They are who they are, and they make no bones about it. It’s good, raw, stripped down Americana folk. It’s about as real as real can get. And the crowd loved them! This was a sold out show and the applause and appreciation Winnipeg showed them at the end of their set was thunderous. It was probably one of the best receptions I have heard for a band since I arrived in Winnipeg. I sure hope they come back soon!
Headliners Lucero sprawled across the stage with seven hairy, greasy dudes who looked like they just rolled out of their big rigs or shuttered their auto shop doors and made their way over to the venue. Their presence on stage was really an ode to all that is Memphis, their hometown. A horn section, rock, country, blues and folk all melded together on stage just as this music does in Memphis, TN. And they do make an impressive racket. It was a good, loud show, indeed. I liked that. Ears should get a decent workout at a show, no?
It was a good, long set, running about an hour and a half. I really should have checked my watch, but, yes, I’m sure it was an hour and a half. How is that for confidence from a reviewer? “Well, they probably played a lot of songs but I’m not too sure, sort of.” But, really, they did play a ton of songs.
This was their first time in Winnipeg, and they came during one of our coldest springs in a long time. Sorry guys. Again, the crowd was extremely appreciative of their presence, cheering loudly and shouting out request after request, many of which the band actually played. I can’t remember the last time that I saw a band that actually listened to the audience and played their requests. I was impressed. There was no set list for either Shovels and Rope or Lucero. They just made it up as they went along, which added to the already unpolished feel of the night. And it allowed both bands to mix in songs that the crowd wanted as opposed to following a scripted night.
And, they just came across as so comfortable and relaxed on stage. I guess they have been together now since 1998, so in that amount of time, ya, you would get comfortable being on stages around the world. They aren’t pretentious in anyway. They just play. There was some friendly, self deprecating, polite banter, but mostly just straight music.
I guess there is a curfew at the Park Theatre, because they went off stage at around 11pm, and the crowd wanted them back on for an encore, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen, until Ben Nichols finally said, “As screw it, we’re doing it anyway!” and played one more to the delight of the crowd, of course. And, then, at the end of the night, as the crowd files out the door, who is standing there by the door of his bus having a cigarette but Ben Nichols, just hanging out, being all normal and stuff. Nice.
So, ya, that was a memorable night of live music, I have to say. I believe everyone else there would agree with this assessment. Everyone sure seemed happy. Again, I love the Park Theatre as a venue, and these are two great bands to see live, no matter where they play. Nice to see them on tour together. Nice to have them here in Winnipeg. Hope to see them back real soon!
Words and pics by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.