The former has been a favored cover tune by the Texas songsmith for as long as he has played in Kentucky (roughly 15 years). But this time he recalibrated the tune with a slower, metal-esque swagger. That his vocals were purposely mutated by muddy distortion was a bonus. The latter tune, from the 2008 album Real Animal, became a guitar shredder’s paradise, with new guitarist Billy White and Escovedo trading scorched, fractured solos that cracked wide open what had been a quite orderly rock show.
“That pretty much sums up how we feel about rock ‘n’ roll,” Escovedo said after the 12-minute electric firestorm died down. No argument here.
Granted, Escovedo had a bigger agenda for the evening — the introduction of five songs from his pending album Big Station. The show-openingSally Was a Cop was a nicely textured guitar meditation; Man of the World was introduced as being influenced by Eddie Cochran, even though it sounded like Iggy Pop; Can’t Make Me Runfortified its Sonny Liston-inspired story line with aHeathen-era David Bowie beat; San Antonio Rain let a tasty guitar disturbance rupture a neatly folkish façade; and the encore of Sabor a Mi had Escovedo crooning in Spanish.
The only nods to pre-Real Animal material came with the expected crowd-pleaser Castanets and a jacked-up run-through of Crooked Frame that put the newest lineup of Escovedo’s Sensitive Boys band — White, drummer Chris Searles and mainstay bassist Bobby Daniel — through their paces.
Some songs (Anchor, from 2010’s Street Songs of Love) had greater immediacy than others (an encore version of The Rolling Stones’ Beast of Burden with show-opener Jesse Malin that simply imploded). But that earlier medley, when Escovedo’s still-vital rock ‘n’ roll heart roared beside the spirit of The Stooges, more than justified the Sunday night road rip. It’s comforting to know that Escovedo, after all these years, still wants to be your dog
By Walter Tunis — Contributing Music Writer