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Steve Earle at The Troubadour — A Full Review

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Buoyed by his boisterous fan base and the electricity of Los Angeles’ best music venue, Steve Earle graced the stage of The Troubadour for a tireless show that proved he lives up to all that live-performance hype. Steve Earle is a bit of a legend. His country music outlaw status is backed up by some seriously good interview quotes, including one recent gem that went viral. When asked about modern country music in an interview with The Guardian, Earle said:

The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by women except for Chris Stapleton. He’s great. The guys just wanna sing about getting fucked up. They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people. I like the new Kendrick Lamar record, so I’ll just listen to that.”

His unapologetic attitude also goes for his personal life. Recently divorced from his sixth wife, he said, “She traded me in for a younger, skinnier, less talented singer-songwriter,” but that’s okay because now if he goes to a baseball game he can now stay for the whole thing.”

Earle’s new album, ‘So You Wannabe an Outlaw,’ is inspired by Waylon Jennings’s ‘Honky Tonk Heroes,’ which is best evidenced by his remake of Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” Earle is backed on the new album by his long time band The Dukes (guitarist Chris Masterson, fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore, bassist Kelly Looney, and new members drummer Brad Pemberton and pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson). The record began when T. Bone Burnett asked Earle to write a song for the television show, Nashville.’ A year later, he wrote another, and the experience moved him toward his country record. Since Earle integrates important social themes into his music, you’ll find his stance woven into the record, most notably with “Fixin’ to Die,” which is about death row. According to Earle, it was inspired by witnessing an execution in Texas. Though Earle has somewhat moved away from his 1986 ‘Guitar Town’ country debut, adding Willie Nelson to your title track certainly allows for a raucous return to form.

I spend a lot of time at concerts watching crowds, because the audience’s behavior says a lot about who’s on stage. In fact, there’s an LA movement to eliminate all talking during shows, out of respect for the performer (see SoFar Sounds). Though an interesting idea in theory, there’ s a deeper issue at play, and it’s important. If the audience is talking during your set, something is awry on the stage. Sure there’s always some drunk schmuck making unnecessary noise, but if no one’s looking, that’s very important data that can help the singer. What if the audience at The Comedy Store was told to laugh, for example, even if the jokes weren’t funny, out of “respect” for the comedian? How would that comedian then know that their set needs tweaking? Or what if the audio is sub-par, thereby impacting the audience’s attention? These things are KEY, and they are all factors as to why I watch those crowds. Having said that, Steve Earle’s crowd is worth mentioning, and not just because it was a sold out show. The crowd listened intently, enjoyed every moment, rarely disrupted their experience with cell phones, and often got excited during his set. Steve Earle commands attention, and that attention is well deserved.

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