When Justin Townes Earle toured this country in November last year, little did we know that we would be witness to an exceptional musical act that would exceed all expectations and excite rave reviews from all the pundits. Brian Wise (Off The Record) exclaimed 'I have seen the future of country music and it's Justin Townes Earle!'

Since that time Justin Townes Earle has released a new album, Midnight At the Movies, and has won the 2009 AMA Americana Award for New and Emerging Artist of the Year. He has also been touring pretty well non stop since Midnight At the Movies was released. He mentioned this at the show, saying he hadn't been in his apartment for months, but would be taking a break at the end of this current tour.

The Thornbury Theatre shows sold out fairly quickly, so it was full house on Friday night, though the venue is spacious enough to avoid overcrowding, allowing those with standing tickets to sit on the floor up the front.

Local band Wagons opened the show with a blast of rock 'n roll, setting the tone of the evening by playing an entertaining set of original tunes plus one Elvis Presley cover. Henry Wagons the eponymous leader of the band, packs a punch with his dynamic stage personality, complete with ironic wit and big Johnny Cash voice. The band played along to his songs of desperation - Pamela May, The Gambler and Drive All Night To Dawn. They wound up their set with the dark country rock title song of their latest album The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown, but not before performing a great version of the Hoyt Axton song Never Been To Spain, originally performed by Three Dog Night and also Elvis Presley in 1972.

They were a quality support act, worth the price of admission themselves.

But of course everyone was there for Justin Townes Earle and he did not disappoint, putting on an electrifying show that more than confirmed the rave reviews of his last tour.

First song off the block was They Killed John Henry followed with Ain't Glad I'm Leaving and What Do You Do When You're Lonesome.

As an introduction to his song Mama's Eyes, Justin explained where he slotted into the Steve Earle family stating that he was the first son, born of wife number three, Carol Ann Hunter. Mama's Eyes is perhaps his most personal song, and what a great song it is. It could stand proudly along side either of his famous namesake's compositions.

Flashing red socks, and sporting Buddy Holly spectacles this time round, Justin Townes Earle is like the revenant of some old time showman. His astonishing guitar picking and 1950s radio voice kept the audience riveted for the two or so hours of his performance.

Interjectors were summarily silenced with the swift retort, "The show is up here".

It was a shorter show than that Justin performed at the Toff In Town last year, where he played something like 40 songs. This time the set was limited to 24 songs and included a few new songs, one called Christchurch Woman, apparently inspired by a conversation Justin said he'd had with a young woman in Sydney during his last tour.

Much has been made in the past of Justin Townes Earle's relationship to his father, but he has transcended any comparisons between the two and is very much an artist of striking individuality. Justin admitted in a recent interview that his father gets asked more about him than he gets asked about Steve Earle.

After such an energetic act - and Justin gave his all, the consummate trouper that he is - it is not surprising that he kept his encore to two songs, both covers. They were the Buck Owens Close Up All The Honkytonks, and I Must Be Somebody Else You Know a Merle Haggard original.

So ended another remarkable show from the amazing Justin Townes Earle. I'm sure I'm not the only one to one earnestly hope that it won't be too long before he graces these shores again.

An Incomplete Set List

1. They Killed John Henry
2. Ain't Glad I'm Leaving
3. What Do You Do When You're Lonesome
4. ?
5. Mama's Eyes
6. Someday I'll Be Forgiven For This
7. Turn Out My Lights
8. What I Mean To You
9. Lone Pine Hill
10. I Don't Know Where I'm Goin'
11. ?
12. Walking Blues
13. Poor Fool
14. Wandering
15. New Song - Christchurch Woman
16. South Georgia Sugar Babe
17. Your Biscuit's Big Enough For Me
18. Midnight At The Movies
19. Halfway To Jackson
20. New Song - Ain't Waiting On Nobody
21. Ghost Of Virginia
22. Hard Livin'
23. Can't Hardly Wait
24. ?

1. Close Down All The Honkytonks (Buck Owens)
2. Somebody Else You've Known (Merle Haggard)

Review and photos by Anne Sydenham

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