Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston TX
By: R.J. in Houston
It has been written that you can never go home. That presupposes you had once called a place home. On Friday night, John Prine came home. Not to a previous domicile but to the place he received cancer treatment, M.D. Anderson in Houston. With his doctors and nursing staff in attendance at a benefit for
M.D.at Verizon theatre he came home to do the show he had to cancel upon the death of his mother. Dedicating Souvenirs to her and introducing himself as "Mrs. Prine's boy" he summoned the holy spirit and left few dry eyes in the house. After 30 odd years of watching the travelin' poets of our generation I
can say this was as compelling a night of music as I have ever seen. Not because the pickers never dropped a chord or the singers never missed a note but because of the honest and heartfelt emotion of a man who has written some of the songs that define times. I have liked John Prine way too much for way
too long to pretend to write a review. Nasty word anyway. After years of not playing Houston, it was great to hear Sam Stone, Lake Marie and all the rest. But that is almost beside the point. When you finish your cancer treatment at M.D. you "ring out." There is a bell in front of the place and there is a
small ceremony usually attended by those who have provided your primary care. Small children and aged adults have "rung out" at M.D. As did John. Friday night he rung out the chime of artistic integrity and personal warmth. And it was a glorious thing to see. God Bless, John. Come home soon.
Venue: Houston, TX
By: Cindy S
Ahhhhh......Got my fix. Since John apparently has forgotten his fans in Oklahoma, I had to fly to Houston to see him. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. I felt that Johnny sang his heart out for us that night. He sang many of the old favorites as well as the songs from his new CD, In Spite of Ourselves. Iris was magnificent as always. Her slow, mellow voice was the perfect preface to John's gravelly sound. And when they sing together, it works! I remember John once saying on a video, "I love Iris," and it's apparent that he does when they are onstage together. Thanks John. It's been a great 30+ years and hey, how about comin' to see us in Tulsa? We've been missin' ya.
Venue: Verizon Wireless Theatre, Houston, TX
Date: Dec. 6, 2002
John Prine is thoroughly entertaining and always enjoyble! My favorite song intro was for That's The Way That The World Goes 'Round. He said that the wife of a friend once asked if he'd play the "Happy Enchilada" song and he said couldn't ever remember writing a song with those words, that maybe it was some Jimmy Buffet song...so he asks her to sing it and she says, "you know, it's a happy enchilada and you think you're gonna drown." Everyone cracked up. The crowd also seemed to be eagerly anticipating a new album whe John mentioned that he "and the boys" had been in the studio recently!
Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston TX
Date: December 6, 2002
My wife and I sure enjoyed the Houston show. There were
plenty of special treats.
We took our front row seats, and someone came and asked to
see our tickets. And then someone else came and asked to see our tickets, and
gave us a "sticker," much to our surprise, and amusement.
Iris came out, in a lovely green dress and pink sweater and guitar. The
crowd was appreciative, and while I don't have a set list, I do recall she
sang "Sweet is the Melody," "These Hills I Call
Home," (Maybe my favorite Iris tune). The middle of her set was
done at a piano. I didn't expect that, and it was pretty cool. She seems
to be a very shy person, and her speaking voice, (which I first hear on
"A Prairie Home Companion" recently,) is very different than her
She told a story of singing at the Grand Old Opry. When Iris phoned her
mother about it, her mom didn't really say anything, but not long after
hanging up, she started getting calls from family and friends. And then,
when Iris talked to her after the show, her mom admitted she did pretty
good, "But not as good as I could have done."
Another cute moment, quoting her Mom: "'Well, Aris,' My mom's from
Arkansas, and never learned how to say my name...."
She came out for an encore, and sang "Our Town," which was
John, Jason and David came out right at 9:15, and started with
"Spanish Pipedream" (Blow up your TV). He apologized for not
playing in Houston for so long, and promised to make up for it.
Although he didn't play any "Christmas" songs, he did play
"All the Best," and said it was the result of being invited to
an ex's wedding, and being asked to do a song.
He mentioned being in the studio for a new album and dedicated the new
song (I hope I have this title right) "Glory of Love" to Iris
and her new groom. I thought it was quite a good song. Unfortunately, I
can't remember enough to describe it and I don't remember any lines but it did
seem more "pretty" than not. He also played his new "Just Gettin'
By" and I don't know what the third enjoyable song was - it wasn't
"The Other Side of Town" or a song about an Iron Man. I'm looking forward to being able
to play "The Other Side of Town" whenever I want. I'd love to
have him include a live version of "Bear Creek". I love the way
they all rip into that song.
He talked about being in Houston 5 years ago for treatment and said all
the proceeds from the show went to the University
of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the organization that helped
with his treatment. He Dedicated "Hello in There" to two of the
doctors who helped him with his throat cancer. He chose that one, because
it's the most beautiful song he's ever written.
John very often looked like he was having a lot of fun. I thought some of
Jason's solos weren't quite as smooth as usual. Not to say he was bad -
not at all. I just didn't think the solos blended quite as well as usual.
If Jason didn't always sound spot on, Dave Jacques did. Those two guys add
so much to John's songs. My wife noticed that Jason only had 4 strings on
his mandolin. Danged if she weren't right - he only had the top four
strung. Is that usual?
John brought out Iris for "Milwaukee Here I Come," "We're
Not the Jet Set," "In Spite of Ourselves," "Let's
Invite Them Over," and maybe one or two others - I forget.
His wife Fiona joined him to sing their duet from "In Spite of
Ourselves," "Till a Tear Becomes a Rose." That was really
cool, though she was really nervous.
I thought he might sing "Your Flag Decal...", (and he did) since
it's theme is particularly appropriate to some of the stuff that's been
going on lately. Damn it that I forgot my flag decal in the hotel room.
of my favorite moments was during "Illegal Smile" - he changed
the judge's name from Hoffman to Ashcroft. Big laughs.
I can't remember what he did for the
one and only encore, but he brought out Iris and Fiona to help with Paradise.
Thankfully, he didn't make us do the "standing ovation while the musician
leaves the stage for a bit before coming back" game - he just appended the
Paradise to the "first encore". I didn't think the voices blended as
well as they oughtta...but bet Iris could do a killer solo version of Paradise.
The show finally wrapped up after 11:00
(maybe - my wife says 11:30 - my sense is he played a longer than usual set.)
but our evening wasn't through yet.
We got in line with our "after the show" stickers, and after 5
or 10 minutes, the whole front row was brought backstage to have a quick
meet and greet with John. Unfortunately, when we rushed out of the hotel,
and I forgot my flag decal, CDs, pen, and paper, so I had nothing for him
wife had him sign her ticket "Happy Birthday," since her b-day
was on the third, and I had him sign my backstage pass. He complimented me
shirt (it's the a black one with Muhlenberg County and his signature
in green on the front, and a couple of lines from Paradise on the back.) I
told him I got it from a gal a few years ago that's on the same list as
Reeda, from the Shrine. He said that if there was anything he needed to
know, it was at the Shrine.
It was really nice not to have a bunch of knuckleheads around, like the
first Prine show I saw, although there was a lot of yelling from the
crowd - and some laughter or cheers at inappropriate times - one ass
laughed at the line "And blood was on his shoes." I think the
Austin crowd this spring was more polite than the Houston crowd.
Getting to go backstage to shake
John's hand, as well as thanking him for bringing Iris to Texas and closing the
show for her was a quite a treat. So it was a great evening, a real treat to see
Iris, both solo, and with John. Also, for him to bring out Fiona to sing, too.
Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston TX
Date: Dec 6, 2002
By: Rob Patterson
M.D. Anderson helped treat John Prine during his recent bout with cancer. Now the folk stalwart is thanking the cancer center by raising funds in a concert with his neo-folk friend and duet partner Iris DeMent. Prine's wry wit and DeMent's soulful purity make their songs top of the crop, and given that the two singers love to team up, as they did on In Spite of Ourselves, this may add up to three shows in one. When it comes to music for the NPR demographic, this is the finest wine in the cellar.
Venue: Orpheum Theater, New Orleans, LA
By: Wendy Werthman
John Prine relies on gut instinct in crafting his brand of vivid story-songs
By Keith Spera Music writer/The Times-Picayune
John Prine considers himself a fan of fellow Nashville iconoclast Steve Earle. He likes "John Walker's Blues," Earle's controversial exploration of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh's motivations, even though he generally avoids such specific topics in his own writing.
"I thought that was a great idea for a song, the way Steve approached that," Prine, 56, said this week from his home in Nashville. "I wouldn't personally go looking for something as topical to write about. The problem with writing a topical song is that it could catch on, and if it does, then you better be ready to either defend it, stick by it or sing it for the rest of your life."
Prine's repertoire is laden with enduring compositions, many of which he'll showcase Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre, his final concert of the year. As on last year's "Live From Sessions at West 54th" concert DVD, he and his acoustic guitar will be backed by Jason Wilber on electric guitar, mandolin, lap steel and dobro and Dave Jacques on upright and electric bass. Vocalist Iris DeMent, whose hardcore Appalachian twang has made her a favorite of roots music fans, will open the show and join Prine for a set of duets.
Prine was an Army vet working for the post office when he first ventured onstage at a Chicago club's open mike night in 1970. Word of his remarkably vivid characters and aching story-songs spread quickly. After the release of his self-titled debut on Atlantic in 1971, he became one of several singer-songwriters anointed "the new Dylan."
But Prine was and is very much his own creature, mixing folk, country and roots rock and flashing a wry wit on unflinching observations of the human condition. With plainspoken warmth and melancholy, his narratives traffic in sometimes brutal imagery, as in the shooting victim of "Six O'clock News" and the murdered sisters in "Lake Marie."
Over the years performers with considerably higher profiles have flocked to Prine's compositions. Bonnie Raitt made his "Angel from Montgomery" a staple of her sets. Prine's 1991 album "The Missing Years" featured guest turns by Raitt, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and won a Grammy as Best Contemporary Folk album. Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette recorded his "Unwed Fathers," Joan Baez and Bette Midler covered his "Hello in There" and in 1998 country superstar George Strait scored a No. 1 hit with Prine's "I Just Want to Dance with You."
Twenty years ago, Prine co-founded Oh Boy Records with his manager, giving himself considerable freedom to follow his own muse and work at his own deliberate pace. He hasn't issued an album of new material since 1995's "Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings." In the interim, he's released a live album, a collection of covers called "In Spite of Ourselves" -- the recording sessions were interrupted by his successful two-year battle with neck cancer -- and the acclaimed "Souvenirs," which found Prine revisiting old material.
These days, Prine requires a deadline to write fresh songs. "It seems that way," he said. "I never would have said that before, but now that I'm totally my own boss, I'm not disciplined whatsoever. I've been really slow. Time means nothing to me, and it's hard to set a deadline for yourself."
Two weeks ago, he entered a Nashville studio to cut a half-dozen tracks that might form the basis of his next album. One clocks in at about eight minutes.
"It only seems like three minutes -- that must be a good sign," Prine said. "It's either called 'I'm Just Getting By' or 'Taking a Walk.' I think we're going to keep playing it until people start asking for it and see what they ask for it by. Or see if they ask for it."
Whatever the title, it may anchor his next album. "Every time I go to put a record together, I have to wait for a pivotal song to pull everything together for me. It might not end up being one of the stand-out tracks, but it'll be something that turns a corner on the record for me. I can either go left or right of this song for the rest of the record."
Don't expect Prine to populate new songs with characters like "Donald & Lydia," the sad couple he chronicled on his debut.
"As far back as my second record, I started shying away from ballads with people with names in them. I'd gotten so good at it right at the very beginning that I thought if I kept doing that, I'd be the guy that carried around all these characters like a soap opera. Sooner or later people would have to start selling a program in order to tell one character from another and not get them mixed up in other songs. It'd be like people on TV series making guest appearances."
Prine is as surprised as anyone that older compositions like "Sam Stone," the tale of a heroin-addicted Vietnam veteran's decline, hold up as well as they do.
"I would have thought some of the early songs that were more topical might have faded with time or sounded warped. Some of them have not only remained strong, but sometimes seem even stronger as the years go by. I enjoy playing a lot of the old songs. They don't wear on me at all."
Back when he wrote "Paradise" about a coal company buying up and tearing down a small town in his father's native Kentucky, he never imagined anyone outside his family hearing it. Now he's well aware that, as an Americana icon, fans will scrutinize his new offerings.
"A little too aware," he said, laughing. "No matter how hard you try, the more you know, the more self-conscious you become about what you're doing. It's hard to find any kind of innocence.
"I still trust my gut instinct after all these years. Sometimes I forget that. Especially with writing, you've got to trust your gut instinct and go along with it and not question it. It may take you nowhere; it might run you straight into a wall and you end up with a black eye. But I don't know of a better thing to follow as a writer than what your gut instinct tells you. That's where everything springs from."
Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston TX
Date: Preview for Fri 12/6/02
Don't confuse John Prine with Bob Dylan. Although you've heard his gravelly, folky voice for years, he has created his own style with a decidedly country twist. A successful songwriter since the '70s, Prine is still creating fresh, witty, well-constructed songs that provide for the listener a window into the lives of the people next door. Prine's style ranges from folk to country and back again. While his music earned him a stong cult following throughout the early years of his career, he didn't achieve widespread commercial success until his Grammy-winning 1991 album, 'The Missing Years.' His warm, steady voice has been paired in duets with Iris DeMent and Emmylou Harris. Prine has always charmed his audience with funny, slice-of-life lyrics about love in the Ozarks and hard times down home.
The Paramount Theater, Austin, TX
March 30, 2002
By: Scotty P
Wow! It's been 25 years since I first heard of John Prine and began to listen, learn and acquire his music, and about 25 days since I bought my first Todd Snider album. Saturday nights show was the beginning of my appreciation of the incredibly talented, funny, and entertaining Todd Snider and the continued appreciation for one of our eras finest song writers and one of my favorite entertainers. In short it was well worth the 25 year wait to see John perform what felt like 'The Greatest Hits of the Greatest Hits'.