July 1, 2010 (New York, NY) — Forget all of the little ones roaming the streets these days looking for open fire hydrants and such. School was in session last night and the headmaster’s name was Alejandro Escovedo.
To all the Brooklyn musician-slash-songwriter-slash-novelist-slash-graphic artist-slash-actor-slash-barristas, and their shoegazer brethren in the ‘burbs: you may as well give it up. Or, more accurately, pick one damn thing and hone that till it’s your craft, not something you’re dabbling in. Maybe it’s simply because you’re just not as good at any of the things listed above (or any of the others that you claim as your artistic endeavours) as Alejandro Escovedo is at what he does. Or maybe you’re just not as good as your mother always told you. But last night at the (all too clean and comfy) City Winery, Austin’s favorite survivor showed a sold-out audience the results of a life lived as a true craftsman.
The rest of us are really pretenders next to this guy.
Alejandro Escovedo is a rock star, to be sure. And this was certainly a more low-key set than last year’s Highline Ballroom show. But he’s also one of America’s best living songwriters. Last night – in the second night of a three night run at the Winery – Escovedo seamlessly mixed old (“Castanets”, “Five Hearts Breaking” and “Rosalie”), recent (a striking, stripped-down “Sister Lost Soul” and “Chelsea Hotel ’78” from 2008’s “Real Animal”) and new (the title track from the stellar “Street Songs of Love” and “Faith”) in a way that showed just how special and sadly overlooked outside of muso circles his catalogue is.
That is Escovedo’s real trick. Both in last night’s show and on his new album he delivers songs that, even if you’re hearing them for the first time, seem familiar and even well-worn. They are each “instant classics”, as one first-time Escovedo concertgoer remarked as I passed by his table toward the end of the night.
Sadly the only hipsters in the audience appeared to be the waitstaff (City Winery is a bit too precious a venue for Escovedo in my opinion, but likely suits his aging NYC audience nicely) so class wasn’t really in session. But my waiter did spend more time watching the show and tapping his foot than taking care of our table, and honestly that was okay by me.
At least I feel as though he maybe learned something. Or perhaps he was at least inspired. Because that’s what our national artistic treasures like Escovedo do every night. They insipire us to do what we do with truth, and respect and reverence for the past, and to keep striving to be better.
Alejandro closes out his New York City visit tomorrow night. Do yourself a favor and book your tickets now.
This article is copyright 2010 by Jeff Slate. No part may be reprinted or referenced without attribution and/or permission. All rights reserved.