Alejandro Escovedo, in black boots, skin-tight black pants, a black jacket and wearing a mess of jet-black hair, took about six steps past a few rows of folding chairs and hopped into the heat of the portable lights set on either side of the stage inside the Ski Lodge Room at the Jewish Community Center.
Tuning his guitar, he was warmly greeted by a capacity crowd of about 200.
“Thank you for coming to Freehold,” one crowd member called out.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” said Escovedo, a revered road warrior of a singer-songwriter from Texas. “You know I love playing here.”
No placating there.
Escovedo, who just turned 61, is used to more intimate settings when he visits here. As in playing solo in the backyard of Mark Costanzo, who lives across town, or grabbing a spare guitar and playing with Costanzo’s son’s band, The Trademarks, in the family’s basement, as one of many acclaimed acts who’ve quietly passed through town to perform for a series of shows at Costanzo’s home called “Concerts in the Studio.”
Escovedo and Costanzo are the two constants here. This show Sunday afternoon, though intimate beyond most fans’ wildest dreams, was actually an expansion on the studio concert series that Costanzo, with the backing of borough leadership, intends to make a regular occurrence at the same locales as bake sales and bingo games.
It is called “Live From Freehold,” and Freehold, watch out.
Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys is the type of band that plays by the credo of giving it your all, be it in front of two people or 1,000. Rangy and almost always bent at the knees, Escovedo glided through nearly two hours of material with the energy of a teenage upstart with something to prove but the proficiency of a lifetime performer who’s seen a thing or two and wants to tell you all about it.
Running through a series of openers designed to get the blood pumping (“This Bed’s Getting Crowded,” “Tender Heart” and a drawn-out, solo-a-minute version of “Chelsea Hotel ’78”), Escovedo drew the crowd close when he wanted to.
“We’re gonna bring it down a little bit,” he said, trading the electric guitar for an acoustic.
He tested out some new songs — he intends for a new release in May — but delivered fan favorites (“Rosalie,” “Down in the Bowery”) when asked.
And in between there were moments when the crowd couldn’t help but interject with applause, usually right after Escovedo’s lead guitarist, David Pulkingham, wound himself back into the rhythm section from popping off a marksman-like solo.
The Trademarks, a trio of teenage boys, joined Escovedo for the poppy sing-along “Always a Friend,” which was the highlight for both bands, if grins count as a gauge.
“Pretty soon they’re going to be saying, ‘Freehold, New Jersey, this is where the Trademarks are from — and some other guy,’ ” Escovedo said with a figurative wink to his pal, Bruce Springsteen.
Until then, it’s “Live From Freehold.”
photo: Jason Towlen, courierpostonline.com