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1997 CONCERT REVIEWS
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Friday, March 28, 1997 Section: EVERYDAY MAGAZINE

JOHN PRINE'S SING-ALONG SHOW
HE GIVES A GRITTY TWO-HOUR, NON-STOP PERFORMANCE

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

  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.
 

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