If you are in New York City today then I suggest in the strongest possible terms that you make your way to City Winery in Soho this evening and see the original and hugely talented Alt Country artist Steve Earle lead the audience on a random journey through his songs during a night of requests.
He will not be taking shouted requests, so if you want to hear one of his songs you need to arrive early and write down your suggestion on a piece of paper which will be thrown into a bowl before the show and if you are very lucky it will get chosen at some point during the night.
Copperhead Road and Guitar Town are amongst the obvious monster songs that get played, but he also pulls some cool obscure diamonds from the giant books of songs he keeps on the music stand in front him for the duration of the show. Something I wasn’t expecting is that he is also a superb story teller and had the audience in stitches last week when he told the story of playing with The Pogues and Joe Strummer in London many years ago.
I’ve only seen this kind of thing twice before and both times it was by Australian artists. Back in 1997 Midnight Oil released their Greatest Hits compilation ‘20,000 Watts RSL’ and used one of my photographs on the cover. I did pretty much all of their photography for the last five years before they broke up and as we had a great working relationship, so they also asked me at that time to design their stage set and go on the road with them. As the theme was of the album/tour was RSL (Returned Servicemen League) Clubs in Australia, most of which have legalized gambling so they can raise money, one of the ideas I came up with was to use a ‘chocolate wheel‘ with the names of Oils songs where the numbers would spin. Every night at some point during the show an audience member would be invited up on stage to spin the wheel and the band would play whichever song happened to come up. The last night of the tour they played the entire show from the wheel.
The other artist who has done something similar is the mighty Paul Kelly, who has been performing his A-Z shows for about ten years now. Every couple of years or so he will do a four night stand in several cities and play a large part of his back catalogue from A-Z. He played here in NYC a couple of years ago and I went to all four nights and wrote about them in this blog. Paul doesn’t do requests, but similarly to Steve’s show he ends playing songs that haven’t been heard for decades.
Steve Earle has played this awesome requests show every Wednesday through February – I’ve been twice so far and highly entertained on both occasions. Tonight is the last night so if you can make it you should definitely make the effort. Call City Winery on (212) 608-0555 to see if they have any tickets left.
In the meantime, this is a 1996 live show at Fort Pillow Prison and Farm: