Alejandro Escovedo came to town with a just a buddy to upend expectations. Yes, it was just two guys with acoustic guitars, but this was not evening of polite, gentle strumming; it's surprising they only broke one string in the course of the evening. Ecovedo's lyrics suggest that he's a singer/songwriter, but he knows how to rock. To put it another way, he knows how to make a lot of noise, but his lyrics convey genuine emotional complexity. He hits you in the heart, the feet and the brain. I frequently found myself with an irrepressible smile on my face.
The pair were previewing songs from Escovedo's upcoming album, due in
June. Although he described it as a rock album with a full band, he was
touring unplugged with fellow guitarist David Pulkingham. Their
interaction was a paradox, effortlessly spontaneous and organic as a
result of lots of practice. They had worked hard to make it look that
easy. With a quick exchange of glances they could alter the tempo or
intensity, and both clearly enjoyed the freedom they had in working
together to make something so beautiful or so raucous.
Boston just isn't showing Escovedo the love he deserves, with the
900-seat venue maybe a third full. Rather than lamenting the poor
turn-out (and he didn't mince words about another nearby venue where
he'd played earlier in his career), he used the intimacy to his
advantage. Especially since no one was in the balcony, the pair stepped
down from the stage, away from the microphones, to perform a handful of
songs in the aisles among the audience.
Escovedo peppered the set with stories about his family, taking great
pride in their musical accomplishments. His father was a musician who
bore 12 children, eight of whom went on to become professional
musicians themselves. His 17-year-old son Paris is a punk rocker, and
Alejandro is amused that Paris dismisses his father's current output at
old man music for old people.
Escovedo was once a young punk rocker himself as a member of the Nuns
in the mid-'70s. That band
is now most famous as the launching point of his eventual solo career.
Ironically, he emerged from a genre that disparaged virtuosity through
his virtuosity, but the punk spirit still lives in this "old man."