Steve Earle and The Dukes 100 minute set started with a few selections from his great new 16th studio album, ‘Terraplane’, most of which was played during the evening.
This was followed by a sequence that included, probably his most famous songs, ‘Guitar Town’ and ‘Copperhead Road’.
I must admit I was surprised to hear these classic songs so early in the set, but the playing of the excellent band, and the overall quality of the show, seemed to go up a notch after those tracks. Not that it was lacking in any way prior to this moment.
It was almost as if they all wanted to get those songs out of the way before starting the set ‘proper’. Yes, these are the songs that so many of this audience had come to hear, especially judging by their reaction to them, but those songs must be a kind of albatross around Steve Earle’s neck?
I, for one, wouldn’t blame him if this were indeed the case.
An enjoyable aspect of the evening was Steve Earle’s between song banter, which bordered on storytelling, and included some amusing asides, such as how he’d had divorces that lasted longer than some of his other marriages.
Also mentioned was how he wasn’t just a ‘political songwriter’, as he has often been described, but that the majority of his songs were actually about women. He did confess that those songs were ultimately written about himself though.
He didn’t shy away from taking about past drug and personal problems either, although he’s now been ‘clean’ for over 20 years now. He even played the first song he wrote ‘clean’ and then followed it with a song written during those not so clean years.
That fact helped remind us just how long Steve Earle has been around (his first EP was released in 1982). The material played tonight, from across that extensive career, showcased his varied musical repertoire which has covered Rock, Blues, Country, Folk and ‘Roots’ music during that time. That’s quite a CV.
Having ended the regular set with a Hendrix style version of ‘Hey Joe’, the encore included a brand new track called ‘Mississippi, It’s Time’. A song written about the refusal of that State to ditch the Confederate flag, as all other American States have now done.
I guess Steve Earle can’t resist being a ‘political songwriter’ after all?
This was a very easy going and laid back type of gig, but one that still packed a punch. The sort of show that doesn’t have you glancing at your watch, and one that I could quite happily have sat watching for several more hours.
If there is a gig equivalent of ‘Comfort TV’, this was it and in a good way too.
Steve Earle said that he’d never been to Bexhill before, which probably came as no great surprise to any of us. After seeing this performance, I sure he hopes he makes a return trip, and I suspect the rest of this knowledgable and respectful audience feel the same way too.
PS: One nice touch during the evening was Steve Earle himself coming out to introduce the support act, The Masterson’s, who form part of his backing band The Dukes.
PPS: If you didn’t already know, Steve Earle can act too. He played a prominent part, effectively playing himself, in the USA TV series ‘Treme’, set in post Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans. I can highly recommend ‘Treme’, both as a stand alone TV series, but also for the wonderful music which is an integral part of the show.
A full set list for this show is now online at: tinyurl.com/q3aakpb