Friday 12/7/07 Charleston Municipal Auditorium, Charleston, WV - Opening: Todd Snider. Back up band Dave Jacques and Jason Wilber
A Perfect Match - John Prine Live
With Opening Act Todd Snider
By Ken Bays
What makes for a good opening act? Besides the obvious - an ability to keep the crowd entertained without overshadowing the headliner - it usually helps if the two acts share some essential quality that makes their music, well, just "fit together."
Singer-songwriter Todd Snider couldn't "fit" any better with John Prine, for whom he opened during a brief December tour of the mid-Atlantic. I'm not just talking about the fact that both Prine and Snider write in a style that balances humor with poignancy, or that both write from a left-of-center social perspective. I'm talking about the way both artists pace their songs: Both Prine and Snider are brilliant at letting the point of a song unfold slowly and deliberately, saving the most clever turn of phrase until the last verse, when the listener is finally let in on the song's true intent.
Prine does it each time he sings his 1972 tune "The Great Compromise," a three-chord wonder that starts off being about a two-timing lover but winds up as a comment on U.S. foreign policy. Snider's penchant for this kind of writing comes across on his 2004 song "The Ballad of the Kingsmen," which at first sounds like an attack on censorship (in the Fifties, the Kingsmen's smash "Louie Louie" was investigated for its "immoral" lyrics) but later reveals itself to be about the mixed messages our society sends young people. ("Only the strong will survive," he sings, but "the meek will inherit the earth." Well, which is it?)
Both of those songs were played at Prine's performance in West Virginia's capital city, making them centerpieces to a show peppered with social commentary. Besides "The Great Compromise" - originally about Vietnam but today played in response to the war in the Gulf - Prine played his other great antiwar piece, the serious-as-a- heart-attack "Sam Stone," where bassist Dave Jacques and lead guitarist Jason Wilber added a mournful underpinning to Prine's fragile melody. Jacques and Wilber were Prine's only accompanists on this tour and the three-piece, drumless format was perfectly suited to a Folky batch of songs that heavily mined the songwriter's early catalog. All the staples were there, from the rocked-up version of "Spanish Pipedream" that opened the set to the slowed-down take on "Paradise" that closed it, the eco-friendly song resounding powerfully in a state where mountaintop removal is a hot-button issue.
In between, we had favorites such as "Souvenirs" (during which Prine pointed out that he's still using the same Martin guitar he's been composing on since the 1960s), "That's the Way the World Goes 'Round" (which had him telling two funny stories about misheard lyrics, going far beyond the rap you can hear on his 1998 album Live), and "Fish and Whistle" (which Prine said he almost didn't like enough to include on the album it was written for, 1978's Bruised Orange). Prine even broke out a couple of less frequently performed gems. On his near-perfect 1971 debut album, the quiet character study "Far From Me" was lost among more universal numbers like "Hello in There" and the hilarious reefer ode "Illegal Smile"; in concert, it was a mesmerizing masterpiece of swirling strings. Sweet Revenge," the Country-Rock title track to Prine's 1973 release, didn't fare as well - it was the only song the otherwise boisterous crowd didn't sing along with.
A late-set run of songs from Prine's Grammy-winning 2005 album Fair & Square brought things into the present. He paid tribute to his wife of eleven years, Fiona, with the sweet "She Is My Everything," and took on the Carter Family's "Bear Creek Blues" with rugged, rural abandon. But on those quick-tempo, wall-of-sound numbers, as well as on the upbeat perennial "Please Don't Bury Me," poor sound tended to muddy up the proceedings. No such problems occurred during Prine's solo performance of "Carousel of Love," a new song that's available on iTunes, but that has yet to be released in physical form. Or, for that matter, on the slower tunes that featured Jacques and Wilber: "Takin' a Walk" was a highlight of the evening, its rambling narrative broken up by supremely melodic solos in which Wilber's fluid playing spoke as deeply and clearly as Prine's lyrics.
Like Snider - at 41, he's 20 years Prine's younger - John Prine is a Folk-Rock storyteller with a hippie-derived worldview and an ability to hit listeners' hearts and brains in equal proportions. They're proof that "message" music can be rowdy, that funny songs can make you cry a little, and, above all, that one guy with one guitar can make a surprisingly big noise.
Ken Bays is the editor of Blues Revue. You may contact Ken at [email protected] com.
By: Greg Crist
I got to see John for the 15th time...third time this year. This one will forever be special as a few of us who hung around and hour or so after the show hoping to get an autograph were invited back inside to meet John and the band. My wife and I spent a good 10 minutes chatting with John, getting pictures and an autograph for our son (Samuel Stone). He was delightful and so humble. He just kept thanking us for coming. What a night!
John you never cease to amaze live in concert, just caught your show in Charleston, took the stage at 8:55 and finally ended the encore at 11:10, non stop pure Prine for almost 2 and a half hours. The crowd was rockin and you just kept us all going. Thank you for putting on a great show for us and please come back soon.
By: Steve Tuck - Tuck's Music Journal
Full review here
Due to a companion's dilly-dally-ing, we got to our seats just minutes before Todd took the stage; practically right on time at 8 pm. Hardly time to settle in to seats, and get a look around at the typically intriguing mix of folks who show up at John Prine concerts. We didn't know where our seats were going to be, (and that was the one disappointment of the evening, but I ALWAYS am intent on making the best of any situation, so I don't complain)- but we were way off to one side, good up close seats though, but for some weird reason the sound echoes off the sides, and back of the theater way over on the side, so that was a little strange, especially (more so) in Todd's set than JOhn's. Todd, barefoot as always, and a little shorter hair than other times of recent viewing, started right into a short opening act's set; obviously unable to dig very deep into his body of work in that role. Played can't complain, the kingsmen song, if tomorrow never comes (and the story about it)- enjoy yourself for his closer. I was trying to gauge how much of the audience knew him- it was a little hard from off to the side- in the bathroom I heard people kinda sounding like that didn't know him previously and were pleased to hear him. Several folks yelled out songs request. Left you wanting more- a few more songs would have been nice. Never seen him as an opening act before, so I was steeled for a short set- like mountain stage actually (he gave a nod to Andy Ridenour of mountain stage). He did do "play a train song" - which will usually win the moment as my particular favorite song of his (though that's a losing battle- to pick just one song, from someone with a great body of work). I guess I also hadn't seen him in such a big venue (other than outdoor festivals)- so that was a difference, too. I was a little disappointed he didn't come out during JOhn Prine's encore, as the opening acts often do, to sing those 3-4 songs, or at least Paradise- he must have "left the building"- ready to head on to Pittsburgh for tonight's show. Then it was John's turn, with Dave and Jason in their usual roles. "Blow up your TV" (spanish pipedream) as the traditional opener. I liked having Picture Show (James Dean went out to hollywood, and put his picture in the picture show) as an early song, too. I remember thinking that was a good opening song, too. The set list was pretty similar to recent ones I've seen; no flag decal, or some humans ain't human in this show; but a strong contingent from the first album- the one the oldest fans treasure, and come to hear. Some good little intro remarks to many of the songs- fish and whistle, talking about how a record producer told him he needed one more song one time, and he just wanted to throw this one in, to convince the guy he didn;t really want another song, but this song kinda grew on him. And that Hunter Thompson always liked Sweet Revenge. He did do the Grumbly beans story, during "that's the way the world goes round"- when he references that a woman asked him to sing the song about the happy enchilada. Its just pretty amazing to look around the audience and see how much people enjoy his music and songs, and the (for the most part) gentle singing along that goes on is really actually touching. Illegal Smile just hits some kind of memory for a certain generation of music listeners. Dear Abby, please don't bury me down in the cold cold ground, angel from montgomery, etc. etc. are very common ground for many, many music lovers. Going to as many shows as I have lately, the certain parts; john staying out to do a solo phase part way through, as Dave and Jason go off, and then when John breaks into Sam Stone, knowing they are going to drift in part way, and pick it up; the little electric mini set towards the later part of the show; with bear creek, and she is my everything. and then of course, Lake Marie, which is always so bittersweet cause you love it, but you know its the end. They really didn't rock it out as much as they sometimes have on that one; definitely decent enough, but no broken strings on JOhn's guitar. On the encore, Christmas in Prison, someone threw a santa claus hat up on stage; and john dutifully wore it till the end, the end of paradise; jason got to sing a verse. Then john draped the santa hat over t he microphone stand. As much as you love to hear his songs, and see him smiling somewhat shyly at the crowd reaction, its usually most uplifting to just see the sea of people so excited enjoying the anticipation of the show, the recognition of songs, the continual tension of folks shouting out song titles, the singing along, the chuckling, and the standing ovations. Jason and Dave have become the so familiar well placed musicians to go with John's music. Those key bass parts (I ain't hurting no body) and the bowing of the bass, on hello in there, sam stone, etc. are so "right." And the switching back and forth between the upright bass, and the slapping songs, and the driving electric bass, are just so attuned to the song selection. And Jason, with many of the guitar solos throughout, and the slide guitar, the mandolin and harmonica parts - just fitting in the songs perfectly; and seeing the vocal harmonies gradually worked in over the years has been fun. When JOhn gets that leg working on those rocking out songs- kicking it out to the side, etc. its so nice to have a LOng history of knowing his music to watch him and appreciate the familiarity of it.
Drove down to West-By-God-Virginia last night for show at Municipal Auditorium - a delapidated old theater hidden away on an anonymous streetcorner in Charleston. I mean, I didn't even see a sign/marquee on the place - just saw a bunch of people ambling into a side door and so followed them in. The place had two bathrooms and one line for beer. And you were allowed to go outside into the parking lot in between sets without anyone even glancing at your ticket or questioning yer re-entry. Old School! The theater itself was not very impressive - no ornate decor - no recent rehab - just a small, old, utilitarian-type venue. Anyway, it seemed about perfect for a John Prine show in WV. The sound during Todd Snider's set was horrendous - one of the worst echoes I've ever heard and it made me nervous for what was to come. However, Todd blew the crowd away - They (and I) loved him!! He probably should've played longer. Initially when John came out I felt a bit of shock. I have not seen him perform in many years and he initially seemed old, chubby, and kinda tired, and his band looked smug and too-polished. BUT, this impression did not last long. It quickly became apparent that this was a special night with an incredible American treasure who is still very much in the game. His voice was great, the songs better than ever, and the crowd was in the palm of his hand. The old favorites became sing-alongs and the sad songs left me teary. I mean c'mon, Sam Stone has got to be the saddest song EVER written. I can't do setlist justice but will list some songs he played in no particular order: Souvenirs, Fish and Whistle, All the Best, Ain't Hurtin' Nobody, Angel from Montgomery, That's the Way that the World Goes 'Round, Sam Stone, Dear Abby, Sweet Revenge, Lake Marie, Hello in There, Please Don't Bury Me, Illegal Smile, Paradise Christmas in Prison (with Santa hat thrown from the crowd) and more,more,more... So glad i went. I've seen John 3 times before - years ago with Bonnie Raitt, then with Nanci Griffith, then maybe Lost Dogs tour. This show was the best!! Incredible....
John Prine at West Virginia University Creative Arts Center - Morgantown, WV - Sept. 21
The morgantown, WV concert was fantastic! John Prine was in good form and the sold out crowd loved him. He played a great mix of older and newer tunes. I feel sorry for anyone who missed the event.
taken from: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/news/page/5912/
Tickets go on sale Monday
John Prine to play WVU Creative Arts Center Sept. 21
John PrineGrammy Award-winning singer/songwriter John Prine will perform at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center on Friday, Sept. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets go on sale Monday (Aug. 6) at 9 a.m. at the Mountainlair Box Office (weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m.), all Ticketmaster outlets, online at ticketmaster.com and through the Ticketmaster Phone Center at 304-292-0220. Ticket prices range from $41-46, depending on seat location.
Prine's work has spanned everything from solo acoustic folk to hard country to rockabilly to soft rock. Perhaps best known for his songs, "Sam Stone," "Please Don't Bury Me," "Fish and Whistle" and "Souvenirs," his trademark wit as displayed in "Dear Abby," "Sabu Visits the Twin Cities," "Illegal Smiles" and "Christmas in Prison" has added to his cult following.
Prine's album, "The Missing Years," earned him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording in 1991. He also earned Grammy nominations for the albums, "German Afternoons," "John Prine Live" and "In Spite of Ourselves."
Oh Boy Records, his own label, recently released the DVD, "John Prine Live From Sessions at West 54th," which includes the entire special from the PBS broadcast plus outtakes and an extensive interview.
The Sept. 21 concert is produced by WVU Arts & Entertainment. For more event information, call 304-293-SHOW (7469) or visit http://events.wvu.edu
Contacts: Kristie Stewart-Gale / WVU Arts and Entertainment /
Office: (304) 293-8221 /
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