Prove It All Night

Preaching 2008 and beyond

Alejandro Escovedo striding onstage for the first encore at Houston's Toyota Center arena the night of April 14 still seems surreal. Bruce Springsteen talked up but didn't immediately name a Lone Star singer-songwriter who could have been anyone from Billy Joe Shaver to Britt Daniel. The fix was in since Escovedo had recently signed on with the Boss' longtime management team, but that information wasn't exactly a banner across the back line of E Street amps. "Always a Friend," kicking open the Austinite's career LP Real Animal, found the headliner happily out of his element and the special guest levitating. Joe Ely appeared next.

Escovedo's pointy cowboy boots hadn't touched down yet the next night at the Continental Club, where River City's Lou Reed uncaged Real Animal every Tuesday night on South Congress for months. From Iggy Pop to hep C, Escovedo looped punk rock back to its irritant and initial role model, the Rolling Stones, concluding with a cover of "Beast of Burden." In one set, siphoned from one recording, rock & roll's crusty, dusty back pages raged and purred electric with the immediacy of live expression. How many such performances occur nightly – hourly – here in Austin?

In 1999, when Springsteen reunited his Band and stopped over at the Frank Erwin Center, "Prove It All Night" exhorted itself into "Two Hearts," the singer shouting into a microphone inches from the yowl of guitarist Little "Silvio" Van Zandt. When the former song went unplayed this spring in the Bayou City, it was sought out by one casual fanatic via 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town, then discovered on a bootleg from that same year at Winterland in San Francisco, its plea and promise expanded biblically from four minutes to 12 on Roy Bittan's long, wintery piano intro priming Old Testament guitars.

"When I was a kid, I used to think ... as long as I went to bed and said my prayers, everything would be all right," warms Springsteen as intro, his preacher no different than Nick Cave, Wovenhand's David Eugene Edwards, or fire and brimstone James McMurtry. "But you find out that you gotta prove it all night, every night."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

2008 Music Top 10 lists, Critics Poll, Bruce Springsteen, Alejandro Escovedo

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