Prine show diary:
My little saga of the concert by John Prine and Carrie Rodriguez on March 27, 2009 at the Blanche M Touhill Auditorium on the University of St Louis, MO campus
CRAZY AS A LOON FOR A PRINE TUNE
It was early morning when we awoke - totally unready for a our pre vacation indulgence to see John Prine in concert in St Louis MO.... After throwing several outifits with twice as many pairs of shoes into a bag - we rode with a semi-dreary mist down I-55.
The webmister and I arrived in plenty of time to find places to eat and an easy way to the Touhill. On Friday evening I donned my Crabby Char's Charms, changed my shoes several times and we headed to Spiro's Greek restaurant just outside of the UMSL campus. The reason I mention this is because our waiter Anthony, who was fairly new noticed our Prine paraphernalia and knew exactly what we had planned. "I just started here and if I wasn't working tonight, I would be there volunteering for the show tonight." He told us of the nights specials as he looked at his pad and up to the ceiling for information. "I'm new," he reminded us.
We each had a Greek combo and were totally delighted, the night just couldn't have started off nicer. We left Anthony at Spiro's with the promise that we would report in to his mother at the show.
The temperature was dropping as the wind picked up, we were feeling the excitement as we pulled into the Touhill's parking lot. "Is that front row parking?" the webmister asked as we looked around for the accessable parking sign, none in sight. Front row - right next to the sidewalk that carried us directly to the entrance. "How's that for the continuance of of a great night!" he said. I smiled and tried not to let any bad thoughts of that other shoe dropping and changing things for us.
We entered the doors near the Oh Boy merchandise table and John's man of many talents was manning the table -
We picked up our Music Fans Direct presale tickets at Will-Call knowing we would have some the best seats in the house - as we peeked at the seats, yep, up in the front section of rows as promised. The usher didn't even need to usher us, she just looked at us and said "Boy, you must rate, just go on down to the front rows there" as she eyed us up one side and down the other. We got settled in and watched the crew set up.
The Touhill was filling up for this sold out show. We had seen John here a couple of years ago and everything is close to the stage. The balconies are each stacked and set slightly back a little from the one below it. This was a great crowd, all anticipating a great John Prine show.
Most everyone was in their seats waiting with quiet anitcipation.... Finally the lights dimmed.
Carrie Rodriguez is a little bitty thing, in her hot pink tights and black lace mini dress. She looked a bit nervous, shy to be exact, kind of uncomfortable being out on stage all by herself. Once she started playing it was hard to believe that she was this way. What a tiny bundle of talent. She went on to explain how the airline misplaced her vintage 4-string tenor guitar and how thankful she was to find one at Killer Vintage nearby in St Louis. "I don't usually play solo, had nightmares about opening for John Prine but after my guitar didn't show up... I'm kinda okay about everything now"
At 9pm on the nose John Prine, Jason Wilber and Dave Jacques took their places on stage to a welcoming round of applause and began to play "Spanish Pipedream" Smiles radiated all over the place. John walked to the right side of the audience end of the stage where 2 young boys were sitting in the front row and nodded at them, smiled a big thank you. Earlier, John's guitar tech Eric handed them a couple of John's guitar picks, I think these boys will be fans on their own forever.
My jaw dropped as the intro for "Torch Singer" began, it's been a long time since that one saw the light of a venue and it choked me up, he sang it slow and sadly... commenting after the song that he didn't remember it being that sad. Beautiful. Definitely a highlight of the night.
One sad song deserved another as he followed with "Far From Me" then to lighten the feeling, "Please Don't Bury Me." Jason Wilber with his cool tie and new "do" was harmonizing on the mouth harp - What a great night!
A quick introduction of Jason Wilber and Dave Jacques. "I wrote this while delivering mail" "Souvenirs" (In memory of Steve Goodman)
This is when I begin to notice that before each song, John steps over to Jason and Dave and says something, they smile, nod or blink and the next song begins. Almost like the boys really don't know what the setlist is, just that they know every one of John's songs and are ready to play at will.
"Storm Windows" - John inserts a big sigh at the end, he's really living us through these songs that have become old friends.
"Fish and Whistle" was that song that almost never got written. He intended for it to be the worst song ever because he was finished writing for his newest album but the producer insisted that he write one more song. "I'll show him" Turns out that John ended up liking Fish and Whistle and it's a staple of the shows these days.
Into the 8th song and the story about Roger Cook sounding like Cary Grant and hopefully not thinking about his wife Fiona as he was for the next tune played "Glory of True Love" and John's left leg starts a pounding on the floor... I wonder if he can dance, cuz his left foot sure does have a life of it's own when an up tempo song is played.
"Sounds good John" comes a voice from the crowd. And indeed it did. In the years after his bout with cancer one never knew if John was going to have a little sand or a truckload of gravel in his throat to deal with. Sometimes it sounded painful, but I'd rather hear him sing with a throatful of granite than to not hear him at all. No matter how the sound... it's perfectly Prine and hits you right in the gut. Tonight, there wasn't a bit of gravel, even sand... he sounded fresh and new, not to mention looked a whole lot healthier, like he had been eating his vegetables, and if my eyes didn't deceive me, he has lost some weight. Maybe it all has to do with just how great his voice sounded tonight.
I'm just all sorts of contented at how this show is going. Nobody is talking on cell phones, or screaming out songs - everyone has their attention directed at the stage, hanging on every note, every song. It was pretty damn mezmerizing.
"This is for Reeda Buresh - if you haven't gotten yourself kicked out yet" he grins. I punch the webmister... "he's talking about Ames, isn't he, my night of stupid human tricks" and John breaks into "Crazy As A Loon" Yeah, that's our theme song here in the Prine shrine... "Crazy as a Loon" (for a Prine tune) I love the part where he woo hoos like a loon. Yep, this is simply a fantastic night. Thank you John, you're a little bit crazy as a loon too. "That's for you, Reeda" (I'd get up and go to the bathroom, but have long since learned never to leave my seat at a Prine concert, never drink too much, and always have a few songs ready to request tucked on the tip of my tongue)
As he plays Angel From Montgomery, Dave and Jason leave the stage. Our man John is alone now, ready to play his solo acoustic set that we all yearn for.
As soon as he finishes "Dear Abby" along with the applause comes a shout for "One Red Rose" before the multitude of requests.
"I know them all" he answers and he sings "One Red Rose" and "There you got Bub" he says when he's finished.
"Thank God for the G chord and a capo" he says as he readies to play "Big Old Goofy World"
More requests come, but only during the break between songs, this is really an adoring crowd, he smiles for a few seconds and looks like he is thinking of which song he wants to do next. "Sam Stone" wins the thought and a low hum singing along joins him in the song.
I count 9 instruments on the stage and as John finishes Sam Stone, Dave Jacques and Jason Wilber rejoin him at the end. They bust into "Bear Creek Blues" - The arrangement is killer, and they beat this song with at a fevered rate, John removes his coat, as they head into "Great Rain"
Holy Moly... this is a hellacious concert - John's slows it down a bit and reminds us to say "Hello In There" - as he sang "old trees just grow stronger" he winced and swallowed hard, not sure if it was his throat or the song itself, but it sure did add a dramatic effect to the song that made many of us swallow hard too.
Again he introduced Dave Jacques and Jason Wilber as they finished up their set with the haunting "Lake Marie"
Oooh Baby we gott go now... and they bow, wave, look totally happy and grateful at another successful show.
We stand, whistle, clap and ovate until it hurts as Faddy and Eric set up for an encore, making a space for who I suspect will be Carrie Rodriguez. They all return to the stage with Carrie for the encore.
and the signature song to really let us know that the concert is over - "Paradise" John, Carrie and Jason all sing a verse.
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