In some ways, they have a Pearl Jam type thing going on when they play live - they can play any song, from any era, at any time (provided that the writer is still in the band - so, for instance, they don't do songs by former guitarist-singer Jason Isbell). They don't have any songs that they "have" to do (the way, say, Tom Petty will play "American Girl" at every single show). So you really feel like they are playing you a set that they really want to be playing - it comes off in the performances. The other thing that comes off is the camaraderie, especially between the founding members, singer/guitarist/songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. Hood is the guy who is usually the focus of their press photos, he writes the Questlove-ish essays in the albums, gets interviewed the most, and writes and sings more songs, but I'd argue (and I think he'd agree) that they are of equal importance.
I think they usually open with one of Cooley's songs, and they did so last night, with "Carl Perkins' Cadillac," (a great song about Sun Records founder Sam Phillips - the only man Jerry Lee Lewis would call "sir," according to the song). The band just glided right into it, like a finely tuned, well, Cadillac, and they were off. While they don't have what you'd call "hits," the first few songs were not among their more well known ones: "Where The Devil Don't Stay," "Go Go Boots" and "Get Downtown."
Things kicked into high gear with one of their early classics, "Buttholeville," which went into a rocking version of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper." (Interestingly, last time I was at the Wellmont - for Chris Cornell - he also covered that song - it's so cool to see the respect Bruce gets these days). There were two songs from their Pizza Deliverance album - "Uncle Frank" and "Nine Bullets" ("My roomate's gun got nine bullets, nine bullets has my roomate's gun. I'm gonna fine a use for every last one!"). After that, Shonna Tucker got her vocal slot of the night, she sang "Dancin' Ricky."
After that, the show got truly epic, with Patterson singing his incredible version of the Eddie Hinton classic "Everybody Needs Love." I love seeing all these tattooed badasses singing "Love, love, love!" and meaning it! A bunch of classics followed: "Women Without Whiskey," "A World Of Hurt" (it moves me EVERY TIME), and "Shut Up And Get On The Plane." They broke for intermission (people just would not leave the theater, we knew they were coming back).
The encore started with "I Used To Be A Cop" from the new album (I would have played that one earlier in the set, it doesn't feel like an encore-ish song, but that's just me), "Marry Me," and then one of my favorites, "Let There Be Rock." Once again, Springsteen was referenced, as Patterson changed the lyrics a bit: "I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd. I never saw The Clash! But I sure saw Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band!" of course the crowd loved that. It was a truly great show. I think I liked it more than the last time I saw them, but I don't know if it tops the Brooklyn Bowl show.
I have to mention the great opening act, Alejandro Escovedo, he totally rocked. I listen to his music on SiriusXM Outlaw Country, and this reminded me that I have to pick up some of his albums. He did a great version of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" and also my favorite song of his, "Castanets" ("Always A Friend" - a duet with Bruce from his latest album - probably would have gone over well, had he played it). I was glad to have the opportunity to see him perform, it was a good reminder that he's a great, and under appreciated, American singer/songwriter.