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Joe Ely @ Dingwalls (review)

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 1:12 am
by garth cartwright

I’ve been wanting to see a Joe Ely concert since, oh, I was 14 or 15. Admittedly, I did see him with the reformed Flatlanders supporting Los Lobos at the Barbican a few years back but that wasn’t a great gig and he had to share vocals with Butch Hancock and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. So Joe finally (I don’t recall him playing a solo London show in the last 16 years!) turns up and Dingwalls is rammed. I must admit to liking country and blues gigs cos I can feel young at them – very blokey audience and many around the same age as Senor Gillett (Charlie – did you play Joe on Honky Tonkin? Can imagine he would have fitted perfectly). Not that this meant a lessening of enthusiasm – no stage invasions but a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd.

Joe took the stage playing acoustic guitar flanked by a Japanese bassist and a Mexican accordion player (does this make him a world music act? Hmmmm) and the trio’s sound was gorgeous. Joe announced he would be playing songs from throughout his career and while I’m not familiar with every album he’s cut there were plenty of gems. Timeless songs such as Boxcars and Me & Billy The Kid, early classics like Dallas and newer ones like Streets Of Sin, magnificent covers of Billy Joe Shaver and Terry Allen songs, a version of I Fought The Law dedicated to Sonny Fisher and Joe Strummer (yes, I first heard of Joe when he supported The Clash and I can see him and Strummer as kindred spirits), songs full of space and detail and regional flavour, songs shaped by Kerouac and Dylan and Hank Williams and Buddy Holly, songs that tell stories and have characters
. . . gosh what a great time for music the early 70s were around Austin!

Joe looks in good shape for a man who’s lived life on the road for the last three decades and sung magnificently. He’s a warm, funny entertainer and the 105 minutes he was on stage flew past. Obviously, many great songs weren’t played so I’ll have to hope I see him again and he does a completely different set.

Postscript: Joe mentioned his book which, I think, is his tour diaries. I’m sure it is very good as he writes well. Will review when I get to reading it. Also – Joe’s touring with The Clash and Tom Petty appeared to encourage him to try and crack the rock market; well, he never did but after those classic 70s acoustic albums his records became a hybrid of rockin’ country and too loud rock guitar and his latest is the same formula. Why he doesn’t just record with the trio format employed tonight I don’t know!

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:56 pm
by NickH
Yes, a very impressive Joe Ely set at Dingwalls last night. The combination of accordion, electric bass, guitar and voice worked really well on songs like Boxcar and Dallas.

It was the first time I'd seen Ely since his appearance with Mikey Dread & the Clash at the Electric Ballroom few years ago. Less gobbing and pogoing this time, but last night's show was probably just as enthralling.

Continuing the outlaw theme to be found in his songs about Billy the Kid and Bonnie & Clyde, Joe joked that he was also considering writing a song about Dick Cheney.

Must ensure I don't wait another 27 years before catching Joe Ely perform live again.