Two guys, two guitars, a rare night to remember…

Rodney Crowell on his first ever tour of Australia won acclaim everywhere he played. Those who had never heard of him before, became firm fans after seeing him perform live and those of us who have listened to his music for 30 or so years, became reconfirmed fans from the first song off the block.

It was a simple show at the Prince, just Rodney Crowell and Will Kimbrough on stage playing a guitar apiece, but it was magic. The simplicity allowed one to feel that special quality Rodney possesses as a live performer - very engaging, with a warm and dryly humorous personality.

Felicity Urquhart accompanied by partner Glen Hannah performed an energetic set as opener for the evening. Felicity entertained the crowd with songs off her latest CD Landing Lights. They included a song she co-wrote with Kim Richey who toured here in 2002 with Fred Eaglesmith and Jim Lauderdale as part of a song writers exhibition tour. The song is titled All Good Fun. She also performed Roller Coaster a song about the perils of stardom, Ernie's Daughter about horse racing and Time For A Change.

The star attraction was on stage at the scheduled time and opened his two hour set with songs from his latest CD, Sex & Gasoline, or record, as Rodney prefers to call them. The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design, where Rodney speculates on what it is to be a woman, and Sex & Gasoline - a song in a similarly speculative mode, were the powerful openers.

These were closely followed by Moving Work of Art also from the latest record. He then reached back into the past for a trio of older songs - Dancing Circles Round The Sun (Epictetus Speaks), Til I Gain Control Again and Jewel of the South.

Harking back to his sojourn in Canberra for the recent Canberra Folk Festival, Rodney commented that it was a lonesome kind of town, pretty well deserted in the night. This led into an anecdote about a tramp he encountered in New York who inspired the song Riding Out The Storm.

Rodney Crowell in this instance spotted the tramp on a chilly day wearing rags and offered him his warm coat. The tramp, in a dignified voice, refused and walked on.

After singing a few more songs which included Learning How to Fly and Earthbound, Rodney Crowell handed over to Will Kimbrough who performed a short solo set. He was wonderful both individually and in cahoots with Rodney Crowell. He played beautiful tasteful guitar and also has a great voice, which when joined in harmony with Rodney's reminds one of the Everly Brothers. I suppose it is no coincidence that Don Everly lends his vocals on one of the songs on Sex & Gasoline.

One of the many highlights of the evening was I Walk The Line (Revisited) originally released on the 2001 album The Houston Kid, with the man in black himself singing the chorus. Will Kimbrough did a sensational job of filling Cash's shoes in this role on the night. Rodney Crowell prefaced this song with an amusing story about Johnny Cash. It involved his first meeting with the man when he was courting Roseanne Cash. The great man was unimpressed with Rodney on sight and dismissed him with the words "I don't know you well enough to miss you when you leave"

There were many calls through the night from the audience for songs from the Crowell back catalogue, but in general he stuck to his predetermined set list, or those songs for which Will Kimbrough & Rodney had worked out arrangements.

It was pretty balanced mix of old and new songs, and even included It's Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chewed Your Ass All Day Long, from the Cherry Bombs era.

The only cover song was Townes Van Zandt's Pancho & Lefty, but Rodney did end the main set with his own much covered song Ain't Living Long Like This.

Let it be said, that as a live performer Rodney Crowell is up there with best. He has charm and charisma and the simple format chosen for his first Australian tour was a perfect vehicle to showcase his wonderful songs. His distinctive voice has not in anyway been ravaged by time and with Will Kimbrough in the mix, the entertainment that night at the Prince was of the highest quality.

The audience, most of them of the baby boomer generation, showed their admiration and appreciation by giving the duo a standing ovation (those seated, I mean) at the end of the night. Rodney attempted to leave the stage, but relented and gave just one encore - I Know Love Is All I Need.

It was also pleasing that the Prince provided a seated alternative for those who find it hard to stand. Tour presenters Ragged Company sensibly realised the age of the likely audience and catered for this. It is to be hoped that they will take it upon themselves to bring Rodney Crowell back again. According to Will Kimbrough's Blog, the reason Rodney has not toured previously is that no one until now had offered him Business Class flights, the deal that this time brought him to these shores.

Set List - ( May be missing a few songs)
1. Rise & Fall of Intelligent Design
2. Sex & Gasoline
3. Moving Work of Art
4. Dancing Circles Round The Sun ((Epictetus Speaks))
5. Til I Gain Control Again
6. Jewell of The South
7. Riding Out The Storm
8. Still Learning How To Fly
9. Earthbound
10. Closer to Heaven
11. Will Kimbrough solo - didn't get song title
12. Will Kimbrough solo - Philadelphia Mississippi
13. I Want You #35
14. I Wish It Would Rain
15. Wandering Boy
16. I Walk The Line (Revisited)
17. It's Hard To Kiss The Lips
18. Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight
19. Pancho & Lefty
20. Ain't Living Long Like This
21. I Know Love Is All I Need

Review and photos by Anne Sydenham

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