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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Last of the hardcore troubadours

Steve Earle was in town last night, and he put on another great show. This time he was in his revolutionary rocker mode, with a four-to-five-piece band and songster Allison Moorer in tow.

The first number, "The Revolution Starts Now," set the tone for the evening. Earle mined his most recent, politically charged, material, mixing in some stump speeches about the state of the nation. Obviously still smarting from the election, he showed no sign of letting up on his leftist crusade. "There'll be other elections," he reminded the audience. But although spirits rose when he belted out a few older favorites such as "Copperhead Road" and "You're Still Standing There" (with Moorer), overall the mood was pretty dark.

If you could call it a mood. The show was at the Crystal Ballroom, where everybody stood up, jostled each other around, constantly jockeyed for a line of sight, and tried to hear the music above the din of a Friday night bar crowd that was shouting into their cell phones and stepping on every quiet moment in the show with mindless chatter. Not the ideal place to hear a concert where the lyrics matter, that's for sure. Moorer's opening set, which might not have been too strong even in a more appropriate venue, was a near-total loss.

Oh well, revolution is messy. And so is rock and roll.

I got the biggest kick out of the few poor souls in the crowd who showed up with their cowboy hats and Bush-Cheney politics, expecting to hear a typical "country" show. I guess they had seen the Earle date listed that way in the paper, had heard that he was originally from Texas, and/or hadn't checked in with him since he sang "Guitar Town" nearly 20 years ago. The hardcore pro-union, anti-war rhetoric coming from the stage left them aghast. The looks on some of their faces after a while were priceless.

My favorite new Steve Earle line (he used several that I had heard from him before): "If you got a boss, then you probably need a union."

Comments (4)

It would be interesting to know if Steve Earle has ever hired anyone, and if he made union membership a prerequisite.

It's worth noting that on Sunday, Earle went from perenial Grammy-nominated artist (11 nominations in 18 years) to Grammy winner. Nevermind that "The Revolution Starts...Now" isn't exactly contemporary folk. Nor is it far and above his past work. I think the music industry gave Earle the award 'cos: 1) He's deserved more than handful of Grammys since he earned to nominations for "Guitar Town" in 1987. 2) An award for Best Contemporary Folk Album is an easy and uncontroversial way for the industry to support the political leanings Earle espouses since fewer and fewer artists are willing to wear there hearts on their sleeves. Don't expect the Dixie Chicks to be taking home Grammy or CMT awards anytime soon, for example.

As for the show, I was bit pissed that many in the crowd talked more and more, louder and louder as they drank more and more. I saw two of the poor souls give Earle middle finger salutes as they left the floor. What I want to know is why did they wait until the encore to do so? Earle's three-part prescription for the post-election blues ("Get out of the f*ckin' country for awhile...Fall in love...Cover the Rolling Stones"), were Earle's most benign comments of the evening. That is, unless you're a redhead from Texas or Alabama.

As a card-carrying union electrician, I can't help but add my 2 cents regarding whether "he made union membership a prerequisite."

It's against the law to make such a requirement - although I'll admit that it's a commonly held misconception that such a requirement is a widespread practice. In states which do not have a "right-to-work" law, employers may agree with their union that new hires shall be required to join the union after a few days (or, in the alternative, pay an "agency fee"). But it's against the law for an employer to refuse to hire someone simply because he/she is not a union member.

"right-to-work" laws, in those states which have them, render such agreements void - in effect, making dues paying purely voluntary, even though the employee enjoys the full benefits of the union contract.

to bad lars larson wasn't there.......it might give him some new materal

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