Steve Earle

Saturday, Sept. 15, Zilker park

ACL Music Fest Live Shots
Photo by John Anderson

Steve Earle

Though his friendship with Townes Van Zandt was notoriously contentious, Steve Earle still proudly invokes the songwriter's legacy, beginning his afternoon set with a rambling reminiscence before launching into "Rex's Blues" and his own TVZ tribute, "Fort Worth Blues." The superb acoustic half of the show established an intimacy even among the thousands as Earle offered his hits "Tom Ames' Prayer," "Transcontinental Blues," and "Copperhead Road," along with anti-war anthem "Rich Man's War." Then, out stepped his DJ to add drum machine and background scratching to "Guitar Town," and the blues couldn't have been more apt. With the exception of dark banjo ballad "Oxycontin Blues," songs from his upcoming LP, Washington Square Serenade, such as "Satellite Radio" and "City of Immigrants," traded songwriting for trite anthems. Despite the conviction Earle delivered to the material, especially the "Days Aren't Long Enough" duet with wife Allison Moorer, there was as little substance to the new material as the sampled beats. Even the gritty closer of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" was a remixed mess.

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