Several weeks ago, while walking passing a wall that is usually covered in posters for terrible excuses for the live shows Boulder usually gets, I recognized a familiar name; Jackie Greene! Noting (w/o stopping) that the date was sometime in March, I went on to my next class and on w/ my life.
Until last week, when I got an email from a friend, asking if I was going to the Jackie show this upcoming Monday! Oh no! A 12 dollar show isn’t exactly expensive, but I had 2 dollars to my name. By chance, I see that the local record store is offering 2 in a contest. I enter and think nothing of it…………. until I get an email the next day that I had won! I never win anything! You cant make stuff like that up. When something like that happens, you know you’re in for a good show.
No matter that it was a mellow Monday night Boulder crowd, to whom the thought of tearing into a theatre full tilt had never once occurred, the tension of the moment of doors opening was quick to return. Every experience is different, every experience is the same. It wasn’t imperative that I get the front, but as one of the first 20 or so through the door, it was impossible NOT to be against the stage. In what would have been celebrated on a Friday night (but slightly inconvenient on a Mon) we were to have 2 opening acts. The first was a younger guy who neither stated his name, nor was mentioned on the poster or ticket. Which is a shame, because Mystery Man was a fairly good opener. In the Greene-Blum-West Coast ‘singer-songwritter’ vein he had some, perhaps a bit underdeveloped, but poignant things to say. Still a young man, he has time to develop, and if we’d have been told his name, I’d happily be on the lookout for him in a few years. He has the potential to be good enough to be someone who will never make it big. That sounds absolutely terrible, but let me try to explain; the was the music industry is today, someone w/ substance, someone who has something to say, will never be given the opportunity that a talentless, here today, gone tomorrow flavor of the month will. This Mystery Man, if he’s ok w/ not making much money and not being ‘famous’ and continues to write, will be a very good songwriter. And, lucky you, appreciator of good music, you will never have to shell out hundreds of dollars to see him.
The second opener, who unfortunately had a name (and even gave away free CDs) was Danny Shafer, and he was everything that this first guy was not. The quintessential stereotype of a “70s singer songwriter” his songs were lighthearted jaunts about BBQs and “Johnny Prine” and had about as much depth as a footprint in the dust. He was just like….. that one guy, and…….ol’ whats his face, and……you know who I’m talking about……..The one hit wonder who was extremely big back then, but you cant even remember his name now. I found it extremely telling that the 3 arrogant, holier then thou, staple of Boulder, frat boys behind us could not shut up during the Mystery Man’s set, but hoped and hollered and cheered when mindless masses pleaser Shafer sang about eating spicy chicken wings. Apparently he was from Boulder………figures.
Thankfully, each opener only played a half hour set, and it wasn’t long before Greene and co. took the stage. While the players were the same since the last time I saw them in 2008, a lot has changed. From the opening chords of I Don’t Live In A Dream, it was clear that Greene has matured a LOT, both as a performer and as a musician. Last time, I remember being struck w/ “lead” guitarist Nathan Dale’s work, but tonight, I was decidedly unimpressed. Be it an off night, or the fact that I myself have grown as a guitarist and have been exposed to many more players, but Dale was simply average, nothing more. Greene, on the other hand, seems to have only gotten better. Obviously, a trio has a different sound then a band w/ two guitarists, and it can be argued that the two-guitar sound is what he is after right now, but, to be completely honest, Dale is simply NOT a necessity on the stage, musically speaking. Not that he spoiled any song during the evening, but he is utterly replaceable by any professional musician.
While he was never one to lack presence or audience command, Greene has taken it to another level these days. Despite my comments on Dale, the band is very strong behind him, and during New Speedway Boogie, a song that, even when playing w/ Phil, I always considered more of a Jackie song, he had the audience almost eating out of his hand, snarling and growling at the mic, removing his hat and twisting reminiscent of a 66 and 75 Bob Dylan (as if that comparison hasn’t been made enough haha). I believe it was during this song that I noticed an unmistakable Larry Campbell influence, another Phil Lesh bandmate. Again, he was great before, but now he is stepping it up a notch.
The show continued on in this manner, until Gone Wanderin’, when Greene invited the audience to sing along. All were happy to oblige, until he stepped away from the mic and let the sing on their own. Embarrassed, everyone stops w/i one second. The band stops too. “What was that?” chides Greene. “We’re stoned!” a woman from the crowd offers. ‘We don’t know what part we’re at!” He smiles, “The chorus”, and this time everyone makes it through not one, but 2 choruses.
The next song was easily the highlight of the night. I Shot The Sheriff came out of nowhere (apparently this was its debut) and smacked everyone over the head w/ more then just a taste of Jamaica. If there was one song that embodied the comments I’ve made about the entire show, this was it. A real pleasure to witness, and one of a few times I was really exited that there were two guitars.
As is usually the case, Greene also spent some time on the keyboards. First one of these to really catch my attention was Tell Me Mama, which had been turned into a very slow blues from what I was used to. At the beginning, it sort of rubbed me the wrong way, and I didn’t feel the tempo suited it all that well, but as time went on, the song grew on me and while still an interesting choice, I felt it worked well.
Immediately following was the next highlight, completely on par w/ Sheriff, an extremely funky Lord Mistreats Me. Keyboards switched to the organ setting, great Dale guitar work, just incredible funk/blues tune in a show consisting mainly of jam and rock songs. Not that I don’t like jam and rock, but this was more up my alley then anything else all night.
The remainder of the night stayed solid, a few Beatles tunes (Taxman and Don’t Let Me Down), some Dead, some originals. We were treated to Mexican Girl for the electric encore (always a favorite of mine) then the band retired leaving up treated to two new acoustic songs of a soon to be released record. The first, 1961, tells a story that, by the end, is extremely predictable, but I really liked it nonetheless. I’m sure after multiple listens I’ll be sick of it, but on a first listen it was really very nice. The second, Holy Land, was more involved, a first person interrogator rather then a removed narrator, and one with more staying power in the long run, perhaps a closer. However, tonight’s closer was Sweet Somewhere Bound, which fits its slot perfectly. I know I have good memories of it, I’m sure everyone in the audience does as well.
There was the option to hang around and meet him afterwards, but having nothing specific I wanted to say to him, and faced w/ a long and cold walk home, I opted to just get going. However, if there was ever a doubt, he has surely cemented his place among the greats, even if too many people aren’t hip to it right now. Regardless of how the future will look back on him, Jackie Greene is one of, if not the best artist under 30 working today.