Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Live Shows: Justin Townes Earle, The Sadies, & Sammy Brue, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 5/13/17

Justin Townes Earle
Photo by Ken Sears
Saturday night was an odd night in the Boston area. It was a painfully chilly night, a full 10 degrees cooler than the seasonal average. Plus, a lot of college students have moved out of the area already. For a large city, Boston can feel like a ghost town starting in mid-May, which can suck the life out of the area. As far as the show went, it ended up starting a full half an hour before the initial announced time for the doors to open. In a really strange move, when I arrived about 15 minutes before Sammy Brue opened, there were three times as many people in the balcony than on the floor. Luckily, the music won out over the oddities of the night to make it one of the best shows I've seen in ages.

The Sadies did double duty as openers and Justin Townes Earles' backing band. They've always been one of those bands that I just couldn't get into. Their albums have been fine, but just nothing that has connected with me. If you feel that way, I implore you to get out to a show. With only 45 minutes for their allowed time, they plowed through songs with the speed and intensity of a band cramming everything they had into 30 minute a 90s Warped Tour set. They just plowed through song after song, making sure that their fans who came out to see them got their money's worth, even with a shorter set. Their longest stage banter was when they called The Sinclair the Royale, another venue across town (which they have never played, oddly enough). The set highlights were their instrumental songs, which blended surf rock and alt-country. Despite not walking into The Sinclair as a fan, I wished they could have played longer.

The Sadies
Photo by Ken Sears
After a break that seemed to be extended, The Sadies came back with Justin Townes Earle (plus Paul Niehaus on guitar and pedal steel guitar). I've been seeing Justin Townes Earle live for six years now, and this married and soon to be dad version might be the best yet. He seemed perfectly relaxed on stage, and genuinely is having a great time. Opening with "Champagne Corolla" off the upcoming Kids In the Street, he settled in right away and owned the crowd. A huge chunk of the set came from 2010's Harlem River Blues, including set highlights as "One More Night in Brooklyn," "Move Over Mama," and show closer "Harlem River Blues." Early on he played three songs solo, including a Carter Family cover, "Gold Watch and Chain," and "Mama's Eyes." "Mama's Eyes" derailed the crowd for a bit because apparently Mother's Day makes Boston super rowdy. The song might have been the highlight of an outstanding set.

Sammy Brue opened the night, a full 30 minutes before doors were set to open. He's young, but he has amazing potential. His songs are a bit schizophrenic, and he seems to have not decided whether he wants to do more traditional folk or a more mainstream sound. I'm personally hoping for the former, but that's just my own personal taste. The kid could go with the latter and be the next Amos Lee. He's incredibly talented as both a player and singer. He easily won over the crowd that showed up early enough in his all too brief set.

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