Rick Treviño, Ruben Ramos, Joe Ely, AztexStubb's, January 18-19

Live Shots

(l-r) Max Baca, Ruben Ramos and Rick Treviño, January 19
(l-r) Max Baca, Ruben Ramos and Rick Treviño, January 19 (Photo By John Carrico)

Rick Treviño, Ruben Ramos,

Joe Ely, Aztex

Stubb's, January 18-19

Big show, small room. Made bigger and/or smaller by a stage extension (for the Plexiglas-enclosed drum riser) and a second sound board in front of the downstairs bar. And hardly a soul there to see it. As a heavenly springtime breeze blew in Wednesday's cold front, inside the air was still and quiet when what one would have thought was the evening's headliner, Rick Treviño, blew in. Twisting behind the baby grand nestled among a full-blown Nashville stage setup, and accompanied by an acoustic guitarist and Lyle Lovett crony John Hagen on cello, Treviño baffled expectations yet again by opening with the tender, dulce ballad "Never Saw Blue." It was the last time there were fewer than 9-10 people onstage. With a backing octet (accordion, pedal steel, three guitars including his own, Max Baca's bajo sexto, bass, drums, and an occasional keyboardist), the perennially baby-faced Treviño, a thin, wispy beard encircling his mouth, looked a bit diminutive sans onetime trademark cowboy hat and boots, but his ensuing performance was just the opposite. There couldn't have been more than 30 people in the shadows, yet Treviño played the room like it was Austin City Limits -- big. "Help celebrate country music and Mexican music," he announced as local flamenco guitarist Teye took the already full stage but added little to "Ever Loved a Woman." Not so of black-hatted Baca and accordion whiz Joel Guzman's valiant efforts to save "Dreaming in Color" from sounding like Jimmy Buffett lite. The spirited rave-up "Hasta Luego" ended the hour-long set's Nashville portion, as Treviño welcomed fellow Grammy-winner Ruben Ramos to back him on his two vocal contributions to 1999's award-winning Los Super Seven album, "Mi Ranchito" and "El Ausente." Twelve-piece mariachi band Campanas de America needed no backing up, only room, in helping re-create the album's magic. Super Seven alum Joe Ely proved perfectly suited for the somewhat incongruous inclusion of the Carter Family standard "Wildwood Flower" and indispensible for the rousing set-ender "El Canoero." A tough act to follow, but Super Seven sideman Guzman and his Aztex princess/partner Sarah Fox did admirably, Ramos, Ely, and Treviño all helping deliver the street-party antics of the 70-minute second set. Los Super Seven standouts "La Morena," "Margarita," "Un Beso al Viento," and "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee)" featured moments matched only by the supergroup's December 1998 La Zona Rosa show. And los Aztex were even better the next night. While Treviño played more or less the same show as the previous evening, this time there was a roomful of people demanding more. Treviño's road manager/keyboardist said no dice to an encore, but the following Aztex blowout was exactly that, the songs from the duo's HighTone debut Short Stories ("Padre Prays for Rain," Ely's "Maybe Maybe," and sexy "La Ultima Noche") all giving the Super Seven material a good run for el dinero. Big bills, big sets, big shows -- big smile. Small wonder.

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