Thursday, January 20, 2011

Marshall Crenshaw/The Bottle Rockets; January 20, 2011; Lincoln Hall, Chicago

Marshall Crenshaw is just one of those dudes. I’ve known his name forever, but for the longest time I couldn’t even name one of his songs. I’ve even seen him once before many years ago, but other than the fact that he played “Someday, Someway,” which I finally figured out was his hit, I don’t remember much about it. So it probably seems a little strange that I went to Chicago to see him, but the fact that the Bottle Rockets were serving as both his backing band and opening act had a lot to do with that. It was certainly an inspired pairing. If the Bottle Rockets seemed more subdued than usual during their opening set, they made up for it with the energy they added to Crenshaw’s set.

Crenshaw started slow with a few songs that sounded too much the same to someone who didn’t know them, but once he hit “MaryAnn” about a half dozen songs in, the show started picking up steam. Or maybe it just took that long for his band to settle in and get comfortable. This was only the second night of a tour that would last only a handful of dates in the Midwest. The Bottle Rockets had arrived late to Lincoln Hall tonight due to a snow storm in St Louis the night before, and seemed just the tiniest bit flustered early on. The good part about the night before according to B Rox lead singer Brian Henneman was that the snow didn’t start until after the show did, “so everyone was trapped.” He seemed most excited about the fact that he would get to play electric sitar with Crenshaw. It could have been excessive, but it was used in moderation. Other than “Someday, Someway,” the highlight of the regular set may have been his cover of Richard Thompson’s “Valerie.”

As the opening band, the Bottle Rockets had played a shorter set than usual, despite the fact that the crowd seemed to consist of mainly their fans. When they finished their set, which had included many fan favorites like “Radar Gun,” “Indianapolis,” “Thousand Dollar Car” and “Get Down River” before concluding with the best track off recent release Lean Forward “The Long Way,” Henneman chided the crowd who was already yelling for more, “All of you have seen us do this a million times, just be patient and we’ll come back and do something you haven’t seen us do.”

As is often the case when two artists with this much history tour together, the encore was the best part. They came back with “Kit Kat Clock” but instead of Henneman on lead vocals, it was Crenshaw. Very cool. I’d already been let in on the secret that Cheap Trick’s drummer would be joining them the next night in Bloomington, and I’d been told to keep it that. “Tomorrow night we will have the honor of Bun E. Carlos joining us,” Crenshaw announced (so much for the secret), “so we learned this song for him.” With that, the band kicked into the instantly recognizable “Surrender” and bass player Keith Voegele stepped to the mike. I’d seen them play this in St Louis years ago during Twangfest and didn’t think I’d ever hear it again. I am happy to report that it was just as awesome as I remembered it being, and I was a lot less drunk tonight.

I’d been very impressed with the Bottle Rockets’ ability to play every request thrown at them in a marathon show in the basement last summer, but I was equally impressed with how easily they got into their role of backing band playing a whole set of new songs perfectly on only their second show with Crenshaw.

The Bottle Rockets

Marshall Crenshaw

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