There are artists who have this incredible way of condensing whole stories into three or four minutes. And these stories aren’t just told through the lyrics but the way the music — the notes, the rhythm — all fits together. Alejandro Escovedo is a master at telling tales — both autobiographical and fictional. At a crowded hall at The Hamilton Live, Mr. Escovedo recently weaved such tales in the way I’ve only seen him do it.
I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Alejandro Escovedo perform both with a band and solo — and at The Hamilton Live on Oct. 21, he brought along Scott Danbom of Centro-matic on keyboards and Austin musician Mark Henne on drums. The feel of songs like “Sonica USA,” about representation in rock ‘n’ roll and that sense of finding a community, hits a little different with drums, keys, and electric guitar.
Alejandro and company started their set with “Wave” from one of my favorite records, A Man Under the Influence. When you hear that first line of “Wave” — Wave goodbye, everybody waves goodbye — you can picture families getting on those trains as he sings.
On songs like the aforementioned “Sonica USA” and “Teenage Luggage” there’s this real feeling of channeling that youthful angst. Particularly in “Teenage Luggage” as Alejandro shouts through a big harmonica mic, “You don’t know me!”
Watch Alejandro Escovedo perform “Teenage Luggage” live for KXT Live Sessions:
In between songs, Alejandro told the crowd stories of how some of these classic songs were made — from traveling Italy to writing with Chuck Prophet.
As Alejandro took a break to chat with the audience, Mark and Scott picked up acoustic instruments to join him to perform to the audience without any microphones. They even played the old John Prine song, “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” with just acoustic guitar, violin, tambourine, and that trio of voices.
After that much quieter, intimate set later songs like “Sally Was a Cop” (always my personal favorite) and especially “Castanets” felt like they had an extra jolt of electricity (both figuratively and, well, literally). People in the crowd even got up and danced in front of the stage.
And I was heartened to hear a song from one of my all time favorite musicians, Vic Chesnutt, as Alejandro came back out to encore “Maiden.”
Alejandro told the crowd that the band is planning on releasing music soon and that he will be releasing new songs in the near future. In the meantime, Alejandro and company continue their tour through the end of November.
It really is a special thing to witness this legend in person.
The setlist included:
Dearhead On the Wall
Break This Time
San Antonio Rain (acoustic)
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness (John Prine cover) (acoustic)
Something Blue (acoustic)
Sally Was a Cop
Maiden (Vic Chesnutt cover)
Here are more photos of Alejandro Escovedo performing at the Hamilton Live on Oct. 21, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.
And here are more photos of Diane Gentile opening for Alejandro Escovedo at the Hamilton.