Steve Earle@The Olympia Theatre Dublin - 6th Nov 2011

Review by Stephen Rapid, Photograph by Ronnie Norton

Bringing the Dukes (and the Duchesses) with him for the first time in an age Steve Earle delivered a two part set that was an appropriate mix of old favourites and new songs from his extensive reportaire. It featured various vocal turns from the band as well as from Earle who's own distinctive and forceful vocals were as powerful as ever. A prompt 8pm start (" Sometimes we are are own support band") was followed, as usual, by a set of back to back songs before Earle spoke to the audience and began his first introductions to the band. The songs in this part of the set included some songs from his MCA days - Hillbilly Highway, My Old Friend The Blues and Someday as well as songs from his latest album. He then introduced his wife Alison Moorer, who had up to this point been playing keyboards. They sang a duet Days Aren't Long Enough after which Moorer sang solo, including a version of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come and again proved what a fine vocalist she is, and has always been. The band switched instruments throughout the show with Moorer playing accordion, acoustic and electric guitars. Guitarist Chris Masterson, something of a revelation, played pedal steel, mandolin as well as a variety of six and twelve string guitars and also sang harmony. He is a member of The Mastersons along with partner Eleanor Whitmore who tonight played fiddle, mandolin and guitar, as well as backing vocals. Both were versatile, adaptable and essential parts of the band's sound adding the twang factor when neccessry. The rhythm section was completed by Will Rigby on drums and the only surviving member of previous Dukes line-ups long time bassist Kelley Looney, who also took a turn at the microphone to sing Free Men. In his between song introductions and explanations Earle referenced the Occupy Wall Street campaign and it's Irish offshoots. Indeed the bass drum carried a "We are the 99%" sign. He also prefaced The Devil's Right Hand by telling a tale of how he used to keep a loaded pistol around the house until his son Justin misappropriated it and the lengths which followed to find out where it was. He further talked about the American Civil War and how there were 58,000 casualties at Gettysburg and how even today "the people who start these wars aren't fucking going" before playing Dixieland. This was followed by a rousing Galway Girl and a more acoustic version of The Mountain. Meet Me in the Alleyway had an rough-edged dirty blues sound with Earle playing harmonica and sing through a distorted mic. Another duet from Earle and Moorer, Heaven and Hell was from the current album I'll Never Get out Of This World Alive. Another small point that yet again Earle and band had no onstage mointors. The enthusiastic and invigorated audience demanded and got two encores which included a new song written for Treme, the TV series set in New Orleans that Earle has starred in as well as Taneytown, Johnny Comes Marching Home and Copperhead Road. Steve Earle is a captivating performer in any form but with the Dukes (and Duchess) it encapsulates his career in a better way than any other. This show was up there with the best I've seen him do and after the show they band met fans in the lobby to meet and greet and sign, which was an added bonus for hardcore fans