Photo by Jillian Clark
I'm a bit of a Lydia Loveless superfan, so I'm always thrilled when she plays up in Boston. I was lucky enough to see her two nights in a row way back in 2015, but then her dates just didn't work for me, and... you know... the pandemic. I saw her opening for Drive-By Truckers last year solo, and back in May I saw her play down in Providence with her band on a day off from a DBT tour. Once I saw she was playing The Middle East, I knew I had to go. Seeing that Reese McHenry was opening, who we haven't heard from since 2019 and I've never seen live just sweetened the deal.
Lydia Loveless has been avoiding the "alt-country" label for almost ten years. The last time she could have been considered alt-country was 2014's Somewhere Else. Since then she's been dabbling more in the worlds of pop and indie rock, and if anyone was looking forward to an evening of alt-country songs, Loveless and her band dispelled that with the opening song. "Out on Love" opened the show with a Sonic Youth level of noise. And I don't mean a standard Sonic Youth show, I mean those weird one off ones in Northampton back when Kim and Thurston lived there that were more jam session than concert performance. At one point guitarist Todd May was grinding the head of his guitar into the wall of the stage. This just helped set the tone of the show.
The mixture of indie rock and pop dominated the set, with Loveless playing a majority of her excellent new album, Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again. (Although "Sex and Money," arguably the most popular song on the album, wasn't played.) In fact, they were looking forward so much a song newer than her two month old album was played. This was only the third show with her new band, but it was barely noticeable. They played that perfect level of loose that kept the show fresh and fun. A song like "Feel" really allowed Loveless to display their vocal chops, which I hadn't truly noticed in previous performances. This new album is an example of an artist truly leveling up, and Tuesday night at The Middle East showed a leveling up as a live artist, as well. Loveless did throw the audience a couple of bones at the end of the main set and encore with "Wine Lips" and "Head" respectively, but with new songs as great as she has, those won't be needed much longer.
Reese McHenry played a short, solo acoustic set made up of mostly new songs. She did play "Fever," which is rare for her especially solo, per audience request. Her set was mostly informal with her charm making even her banter as great as her songs. I got the impression the majority of the crowd wasn't familiar with her before she took the stage based on in crowd talking, but by the end of her first song that quickly ended. Let's hope making it up to Boston becomes a regular event for her.
Apologies to Magen Tracy & The Missed Connections. I left the house later than I meant to, and the show started earlier than I thought. I only caught three songs of theirs, which was a massive bummer for me. But their blend of blues rock was superb live, and I'll do my best to make it to another show earlier next time.