Sunday, November 18, 2007

Joe Henry Shares Stage, but Upstages Humbly

Los Angeles, CA--Friday, November, 9th, 2007. Boy Scout outing. Dinner. On the road in the new BMW with navigation--no chance of getting lost, and detour option to maximize time.

So, the ticket says, "LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III and Joe Henry." Loudon's name is one or two point font sizes larger and appears first. Okay, no problem. Prior to the show, I'd never heard of Mr. Wainwright. Nevertheless, I settled into my seat in a mostly 40s and 50sish crowd.

Loudon takes the stage, sans Joe, and begins the set. He plays three or four songs before Joe joins him to loud applause. Joe backs him for the next few songs, before Loudon exits stage right.

Joe then jumps into "Civil War" and I thought for a moment he was lip-syncing to the CD--not because he was out of sync but, rather, because it sounded just like the recording. Joe played this tune a bit slower than the CD but mesmerized the crowd nonetheless. He followed with "Time is a Lion" and "Parker's Mood" both haunting performances.

He then said, "here is a tune that changed everything about my song writing." The band and Joe played "This Afternoon" which brought down the house. This song is so trademark Joe--he is one of the few songwriters who can take one word and stretch it out over several bars of music, using each syllable as its own phrase.

The difficult horn parts were performed by the guitarist on an acoustic slide guitar to utter perfection.

Loudon later joined Joe to finish the set and for an encore. Although Wainwright was the headliner and Joe billed as guest, it was clearly Joe Henry for whom the crowd came to see. When all was said and done, I'd completed the triumvirate of the year--Wilco, Sexton, and Henry.

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