Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., June 26, 2009
Steve EarleParamount Theatre, June 19
"I had a friend and a teacher, and his name was Townes," offered Steve Earle in his standard introduction to Townes Van Zandt's "Rex's Blues," and Friday's show at the Paramount celebrated both aspects of their relationship: the former related through stories that have become legend, the latter manifested by Earle delivering nearly two hours of TVZ classics interwoven with his own. Following an impressive, Dylan-drawn opening shot by young Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Pug, Earle emerged dressed down for his solo, acoustic set, stomping out the hard-strummed "Where I Lead Me" before dropping into the softer "Colorado Girl." Aside from his own poignant tribute, "Ft. Worth Blues," Earle devoted the first half of the evening to Van Zandt tunes, carrying "Pancho and Lefty" and the smoldering blues of "Brand New Companion" with visceral authenticity. The low hum of the appreciative crowd's singing continued into Earle's material, which flowed from the furiously paced "Tom Ames' Prayer" and "Taneytown" to the lonesome ache of "My Old Friend the Blues," "Someday," and "Goodbye." While Earle inevitably waxed political on "Rich Man's War" and "The Mountain," much of the appeal of his new Townes LP lies in the tales of the two songwriters, from the apprentice's first encounter with his idol as lead in to "Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd" to the brazenly candid prologue of "Marie" ("You know you're in trouble when Townes shows up at your house to give you a temperance lecture"). Earle related the memories with as much affection as he did the songs and left his own hits, "The Devil's Right Hand" and "Copperhead Road," for the encore. Closing with the raw grit of "Lungs" and the lingering beauty of "To Live Is to Fly," Earle hoisted his guitar by the neck for a final parting salute: "See you when I get there, maestro."