I dragged the girlfriend away from a nap to attend the Acoustic Brotherhood Tour at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Feb. 11.
The theater was packed, and I was the youngest person in the building.
Seeing people in their 50s enjoying themselves is strange as shit.
It’s like busting your mother drunk or something.
The girlfriend and I were ushered to our seats and waited for the show to begin. The few times I’ve attended music performances in theaters with seats, I’ve always felt crestfallen. I really prefer to stand or dance—not that I’m much of a dancer, but the option is always nice.
Soon Carrie Rodriguez took the stage with a guitar player, but then began strumming a guitar of her own. I was under the impression that Rodriguez was a fiddle player, so I was curious to see her guitar chops. The opening song sounded like it belonged on a soundtrack from a late-’90s high school show on the WB. I was disappointed by Rodriguez’ preteen-caliber guitar playing; she was literally alternating between two chords, and it seemed I was the only person in the crowd who was less than thrilled.
Finally, the Guitar 101 recital ended and, to my delight, Rodriguez pulled out her fiddle. The second song, best described as contemporary bluegrass, won me over instantly. Rodriguez was all over the map in what I’d call shredding. This was exactly what I came to see. But sadly, after a fiddle number or two, it was back to slow guitar jams, and I was torn between wanting to love Rodriguez and wanting to smash her guitar.
Fortunately, she closed her set with a stroke of brilliance: a Spanish-language folk ballad. It was not only perfect for a town as bilingual as Santa Fe, but the melody was gorgeous and sweetened by Rodriguez’ announcement that her grandmother had previously recorded the song. Boring guitar aside, Rodriguez has a spectacular voice, and her fiddle prowess would slay the devil himself in a battle for souls.
After a brief intermission, Alejandro Escovedo took the stage with Rodriguez and a guitar player whose name I didn’t catch—thanks in part to the idiots sitting next to me who thought it would be awesome to laugh and yell throughout the performance. (I later found out the mysterious man was David Polkingham, with whom Escovedo often performs live.)
Much like the opening set, the trio began on a weak note. Also like Rodriguez’ set, any doubts I had about Escovedo were quickly dispelled during his second song. Mild blues with subtle flamenco guitar undertones drove the rocking number into near jam-out territory without growing stale. Polkingham wowed the crowd with impressive guitar tricks that seemed complicated but were played with ease. With superhuman accuracy and speed, he scoffed at traditional time signatures and strumming patterns. Rodriguez added a melancholy nuance with minimal and reverb-heavy fiddle. Perfect.
The lyrics conveyed self-doubt as Escovedo sang, “Everyone says they love me, but I don’t know why.” Lyrics like these create a feeling of closeness between the musician and the audience.
Following a few more impressive numbers, the trio stepped out from behind the microphones and amplifiers to play acoustic. In theory, going completely unplugged is a great idea, and I understand the three were going for an intimate and exciting moment. However, my seat was in the balcony, and the aforementioned loudmouths in my row made hearing impossible. I salute the effort, but I’m afraid it didn’t work out as well as they may have hoped.
And then I left. Sorry, Los Lonely Boys, but I absolutely detest your music and after Escovedo’s stellar performance, I wanted the good feeling to last.
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