There's no doubt that Alejandro Escovedo is a trooper, a reformed rock 'n' roll animal, who has battled illness to continue to make the music he so obviously loves. On his last visit to Whelans he was accompanied by his ground-breaking rockin' string quartet, this time out he is joined by the current incarnation of his Sensitive Boys band including a guitarist who's name I didn't quite catch, drummer Chris Searles and bassist Bobby Daniel who has played with Escovedo over the last three albums. The show was centered around the current Tony Visconti produced album Big Station. They opened with Sally Was A Cop, a song that Alejandro explained was about Mexico and the love of community that exists there. Other songs which, for a first time hearing, connected with the largely enthusiastic audience included the album title song plus Man Of The World, This Bed Is Getting Crowded, San Antonio Rain, a song he said was about his birth city while Bottom Of The World was focused on his current home city of Austin, a place he said that for many "doesn't want to change". From Streets Songs Of Love came This Bed Is Getting Crowded with it's powerful chorus of "This ain't love" and later in the set, also from that album, Down In The Bowery, about which he mentioned that all his family were Ramones fans. Castanets with it's chorus of "I love it when she walks away" about an acquaintance who he was less than fond of, who played the titled castenets, but with absolutely no sense of rhythm was taken from the Man Under The Influence album. These songs were delivered with full-on rock raucousness, a fiery sound that culminated in an extended guitar work out on I Wanna be Your Dog. A song that saw Escovedo using a distorted vocal mic and had him prowling the stage with some menace. Throughout Alejandro was in great voice, one that is immediately distinctive, something that was further emphasized when he came back onstage for the solo encore of Last To Know. There were undoubtably some who would have loved to have heard a few more of these earlier, much-loved songs. But with such a strong back catalogue he would have had to have booked a multi-night residency to cover these (he at one point commented that "I've made too many albums"). I don't think that that remark was a sentiment echoed by anyone in the audience. During the evening the singer switched between acoustic and electric guitar as he is very much a part of this band's musical output and the quartet meshed together well as tough well-oiled unit. Alejandro Escovedo has his devoted fans and they love his varied output and are only too pleased to see him in the live context. Even when he was, naturally, concentrating on his newer songs. During the set he talked about family, his parents and siblings as well as his own 7 kids including his 19 year old son who plays drums and synth as a somewhat angry one-man band. Family is key to Escovedo's outlook and the second to last song was a cover, Sabor A Mi by Álvaro Carillo, a song he said he father sang to his mother, anywhere - at the drop of a hat, he sang it in Spanish. Then they finished the evening with an appropriately rough-housed cover of Beast Of Burden during which he got the crowd to sing along with the chorus. After the gig Escovedo came to meet fans. It was that kind of informal and intimate gig.
Review by Steve Rapid, Photography by Ronnie Norton