Friday, March 28, 1997 Section:
JOHN PRINE'S SING-ALONG SHOW
By Terry Perkins
Special To The Post-Dispatch
Photo by Kevin Chapin - John Prine (left) and
Jason Wilber trade-off on guitar solos at Mississippi Nights.
JOHN PRINE Mississippi Nights, Sunday, March 23
HE GIVES A GRITTY TWO-HOUR,
FOR more than 25 years, John Prine has written and performed songs with
a decidedly working class point-of-view. From the drug-addicted Vietnam
vet portrayed in "Sam Stone" to the husband and wife grilling Italian sausages
on the shores of "Lake Marie," Prine has exhibited a rare knack for capturing
the harsh realities of everyday middle American life with unflinching lyrics
and wry wit.
So it's no surprise that Prine's performance packed the kind of solid
value Midwesterners appreciate. Prine delivered more than two dozen tunes
from throughout his career in a non-stop, two hour concert.
On most of his previous visits to St. Louis, Prine has performed in
venues like the American Theater and Westport Playhouse. This time around,
Prine performed in the informal, funky atmosphere of the Nights, and the
large crowd that packed the club gave the concert a special intimacy.
The enthusiastic audience sang along on just about every tune, and cheered
Prine's every move throughout the show.
Prine has a deep-toned, gritty vocal style that takes some getting used
to. But like many great lyricists, his interpretations more than make up
in nuance, inflection and meaning what they may lack in vocal precision.
Prine opened the show with an up-tempo rendition of "Six O'clock News,"
then moved quickly through crowd-pleasing tunes like "Fish and Whistle"
and "Picture Show."
Prine and his backing duo created a full, textured sound made more flexible
by the lack of a drummer.
After nine tunes with his backing band - including a fine version of
"Angel from Montgomery" - Prine settled into a solo section that highlighted
his knack for connecting with his audience. Prine featured many of his
early classics like "Dear Abby," "Donald and Lydia", "Souvenirs" and "Sam
Stone" in the solo section. And although he's undoubtedly performed these
tunes thousands of times over the years, Prine brought conviction and energy
to every note.
Prine's band returned, and he finished up the show with a series of
songs highlighted by excellent instrumental solos. Jason Wilkins contributed
sparkling slide guitar on "Quit Hollerin' At Me," and his strong solo on
"Pretty Good" kicked the band's energy up several notches. After a moving
version of "Hello In There" that featured a fine bowed solo on acoustic
bass, the crowd gave Prine and his band a standing ovation, and called
them back to the stage for a lengthy encore.
At this point, it was hard to tell whether the audience or Prine and
his musicians were having more fun. Certainly it was a performance that
everyone lucky enough to be there will remember for quite awhile.
Copyright © 1997
Post Dispatch and Pulitzer Technologies Inc.