Steve Earle and the Dukes - Corner Hotel - November 30 2005

Steve Earle live at the Corner 30 November 2005

Steve Earle an artist sometimes described as a Texas Troubadour is now a self styled political activist railing against the religious right, post 9/11 attacks on freedom of speech and societal dissent.

Earle seems to know how to time tours to coincide with the issues of our time. On a previous tour it was the Maritime Union waterfront strike. This time it was the pending Van Nguyen execution in Singapore. The introduction to an solo version of Billy Austin and his thoughts on the hanging were a real show stopper with the audience and his plea for Australians to push for abolition were genuine, having been a long time advocate of the opponent of the death penalty in the USA. Heaven knows what he would have made of the racial events in Cronulla of the past week. The last show of the night was The Unrepentant a song possibly written while incarcerated from the album Ain't Ever Satisfied that gave a hint of the direction that Mr Earle has taken in career to date.

The renegade in Earle is manifest in the show that he performed on the night. It's a long and brutal assault on the senses by the rock dog leanings of the band. Kelley Looney looking like a washed out surfer with a rock rat attitude on bass and together with Will Rigby anchored the sound that was filled out by the guitar rifts of Eric Ambel with leader Earle on various guitars and mandolins. Patrick Earle is not only tour manager but plays percussion, syns and keyboards a various points during the show.

But it's not all political messages and bombast. Earle manages to provide a show drawn from his long career and back catalogue that satisfies those hungering for earlier tracks. In particular country gems Someday, My Old Friend the Blues, You're Still Standing There with spouse Alison Moorer providing the female vocal in lieu of Lucinda Williams and radio hit Copperhead Road got the country crowd on side.

New songs such as Home to Houston, a Humvee drivers lament about fighting an unjust and dishonourable war has a kicker bar backbeat. Ditto for Rich Man's War a song with a less subtle but by no means less powerful message. The trilogy is filled out by Warrior, delivered in a rap style that evokes images of noble fighters through the ages going back to indigenous American Indians of times past. It is almost a call to arms for all of us to stand up for what we believe in against politicians, tyrants and despots who want to rule over us and control not only our lives but also our thoughts.

The bracketing of songs is a constant throughout the show and is a clever ploy by Earle.
It manages to put the songs into context even though they span the length of career showing his longevity and artistic merit.

Reggae rhymes of Condi Condi had a call and response interchange between audience and the stage. Once again a political message wrapped up in a groove so that entertainment is the name of the game. Bracket partner F The CC was spat out by the singer while the band held down a punk beat. The sheer rebellion in the lyric and chorus resulted in an end of tour stage invasion by the road crew who had stripped off their clothes and avoided the threat of arrest for profanity and indecency by strategically placed duct tape.

Other trilogies of Comin' Around, I Thought You Should Know and Sweet Virginia provided the requisite love songs required in a country show.

After Two Encores, 25 songs and 134 shows it was time to hit the Hillbilly Highway. It was fitting that Earle got to play the Corner in a week celebrating its tenth year for the current owners.

It's been venue that has been graced by the presence of honky tonker and five and dimer Billy Joe Shaver and current Lone Star State Gubernational nominee, Kinky Friedman who might possibly be the man for the hour if Steve Earle's music and message resonates in the right places.

This was a longer end of world tour show with welcome addition of songs not performed at his two Prince Of Wales shows earlier in the month.

- photos by Margaret Sullivan

top / back to articles