Road to Austin
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., May 25, 2007
Road to Austin
Auditorium Shores, May 19
Stephen Bruton, breezing onstage in a vintage Porsche, looked thin, pale, his movie-star charisma nevertheless undiminished by recent treatment for throat cancer. His silvering mane, topping Ray-Bans and Man in Black attire, matched his boyish smile. The nucleus of his longstanding band, rhythm tandem Brannen Temple and Yoggie Musgrove plus pianist Stephen Barber, beamed as well, bolstered by a full contingent that included backup guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb, organist Ian McLagan, a horn section, and percussion. All systems go. And go they did, like a finely tuned sports car, for more than 3 hours. If the evening's inspired arc of Austin music old and new never quite equaled Saxon Pub mainstays Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel igniting guitar deities David Grissom and Eric Johnson on Derek & the Dominos' "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" then "Layla," Freescale Semiconductor's free extravaganza didn't suffer one single note for it. Ruthie Foster began it all with a tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharp and bookended it by guesting with Bonnie Raitt on a sliver-moon slice of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery." Both times, headliner Kris Kristofferson put two pinkies to his lips and whistled Dixie. In between, most everyone got two songs and a hearty welcome from the thousands-strong throng down on the Colorado. James Hand, red bandana knotted at his throat, Ian McLagan's "Date With an Angel" with Raitt adding slide Strat, Malford Milligan's "A Change Is Gonna Come," Raul Salinas' poem for fallen T-Bird Keith Ferguson, Carolyn Wonderland channeling Janis Joplin: highlights all. Tosca, opera, gospel, cumbia, and emcee Turk Pipkin proved their own silver linings. Bruton, in whose name Mayor Will Wynn proclaimed the day, was all too brief for his own set, Milligan raising a few throaty lumps with the guitarist's heartfelt "Against My Will." Bruton's mentor, Kristofferson, didn't disappoint with tattered versions of "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "For the Good Times," and "Sunday Mornin' Coming Down." Neither did frequent guester Delbert McClinton's "Giving It Up for Your Love," nor closer Raitt, with whom his duet on "Good Man, Good Woman" clearly tickled. At the grand finale crackled live audio of Joplin introducing Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" followed by the grinning pilgrim himself leading all present from a "busted flat in Baton Rouge" to a Lone Star oasis where "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."