Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lucero - Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins, CO - 10/26/09

Monday’s Lucero show at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, CO, brought out a number of contrasts for me in relation to the last time I saw them. First of all, Lucero brought a horn section with them to this show, and secondly, I didn’t drink any whiskey. There is a good and bad side to both of these details - some for obvious reasons and for other reasons that I will explain.

This show was my first opportunity to check out the Aggie, a theater that brings in unbelievably diverse acts, as evidenced by the posters on the wall that ranged from Ol’ Dirty Bastard to Robert Earl Keen to Ministry. I suspect this is chiefly a product of being basically the only big venue in town, which consequently allows them to be jerks to you if they feel like it, because you can drive to Denver to see Lucero for all they care.

Another big contrast between this and other recent Lucero shows I’ve been to was the age of the crowd, a result of the proximity of the venue for students from Colorado State, Northern Colorado, and the University of Wyoming. Given the young crowd, I saw a disproportionate number of people who weren’t exactly seasoned whiskey drinkers, and thus, much stumbling, having to leave early, and vomiting in the bathroom transpired throughout the night. Additionally, the combination of youth and whiskey and Lucero created the perfect atmosphere for a mosh pit to develop - the first I’ve seen at a Lucero show. However, the cool head of John C. Stubblefied prevailed in this circumstance, taking the mic to inform these young men that people came to the Lucero show and not to be a part of Ultimate Fighting, and further that the guy in the green shirt was about to be kicked out if he put anyone else in a choke hold. This statement pacified the crowd ever so slightly, but didn't kill the energy for the show either. I wouldn’t have wanted to press my luck with Stubblefield either.

Moving on to the music itself, the biggest addition was that of a trumpet and saxophone player to the mix. Digesting this addition was not all that different from the experience many of us worked through in accepting keyboard player Rick Steff as a relatively permanent addition to the band. We all recoil just a bit because it is a change from the norm, but as most of us did in Steff’s case, we’ll come to a certain acceptance of it eventually. The horns have the best fit in the newest songs, which were recorded with them, and broke new ground on older songs, adding horn parts to songs like “That Much Further West” and “Tears Don’t Matter Much.” The new arrangements were a nice change, but in all their glory, they might have missed in one area, and that was in how hard the songs rocked, for lack of a less clichéd term. I don’t begrudge the band for trying new things, and it wasn’t their fault that the sound at the Aggie is not exactly top notch, but their normal standards just didn’t hit with the same impact as usual.

That said, my complaints about the band’s performance are really quite minimal. Quite impressive, but tangential to the music, were the massive beards they were sporting, with the exception of Steff, whose facial hair was crafted in a style I would describe as “neckburns.” You’d have to see them to know what I’m talking about. The band went on just after 11 PM and didn’t leave the stage for good until around 1 AM, with considerable whiskey consumed in between. It is probably this type of devotion to the fans that makes Lucero so immensely popular, as they play each show as though it is the most important one yet, no matter how many more days they have left on the tour. I’m not sure you need a major label when you’ve got fans like this, but the increasing popularity of Lucero does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Check out the Denver AV Club's interview with Ben Nichols here.

(Photo credit Alan Spearman, courtesy Lucero myspace)

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