John Prine

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John Prine

Zilker Park, Sept. 23

Long before he beat throat cancer, John Prine sang with the wry smile of someone who maybe cheated a little death. Even if you missed the ashtray edge in his voice, the stage cameras panned past the sizable scar on his neck from the surgery. So it's probably no coincidence that the set's leitmotif (angels, heaven, Jesus) was somewhat eschatological. After opening with the signature "Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV)," he unretired "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore." With lines like "They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war," it sounds like something penned post-'01 and not for Prine's '71 self-titled debut. Even though the set's momentum slowed noticeably after "Angel From Montgomery" somewhere around the midpoint, Prine still grabbed the biggest crowd response on "Some Humans Ain't Human" from his latest Fair and Square when he substituted the album's original lyric with the more colorful "You're feeling your freedom and the world's off your back when that asshole in Crawford starts a war in Iraq." Yeah, it's an easy shot, but when you're a living legend and playing like you don't mind dying, you get to get away with those.

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