Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: The Flatlanders - Cactus Theater, Lubbock, 01/29/11

Saturday night at the Cactus Theater in Lubbock featured "An Evening With the Flatlanders," and that is just what the crowd got, with close to a 2 hour performance from Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. I heard a decent amount of confusion about why advertised opener and local Brandon Adams didn't play, but word was that he was pulled fairly last minute in the interests of making the night for the Flatlanders alone.

Ely kicked off the night with the group's "Right Where I Belong," and the song progression from there followed the songwriter-in-the-round style. The night's musical backing was relatively simplistic, in that it was provided only by Ely, Gilmore, and Hancock themselves. This left Ely to do most of the guitar solos, producing a sparse, yet intimate show from the three. The setlist included all three playing a number of Butch Hancock songs as well as some of their own. Whether a result of not playing with a band or simply wanting to play more offbeat material, the band ventured into some less well known tracks, and avoided altogether standards such as "Tonight, I'm Gonna Go Downtown" and "South Wind of Summer."

Gilmore made a point of playing what he termed "a request to himself," with a cover of his son Colin Gilmore's song "The Way We Are," which also appears on the most recent Flatlanders' album. The stories between songs were as enjoyable as the music itself, including Gilmore's statement (and I paraphrase): "I don't believe in miracles, so when one happens it really freaks me out." Similar quips were found throughout the night, with a good deal of banter passed between the performers.

Surprisingly, few requests were yelled out over the course of the night, and so the artists mostly handpicked songs of their choosing. Among those selected was a cover of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues," a song oft-covered by the band and also performed on Gilmore's 1988 solo album Fair and Square. Although the trio said goodnight without announcing the previous song as their last, they returned for a two song encore, featuring the near mandatory "Bluebird" and "I Had My Hopes Up High." Overall, the show was a great night of music and stories from the elder statesmen of Lubbock music.

Please let the folks at the Cactus Theater know that they need to bring in more local and national acts to use the amazing space they have. It's a great space and Lubbock needs more quality live music, and possibly less musical theater.

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