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Marshall Crenshaw w/ the Bottle Rockets – Off Broadway. Saint Louis, MO – 1-21-11


I knew very little of Marshall Crenshaw until a few months ago, when my good friend Tim threw me a record of his, thinking Id enjoy his pop troubadoring.  As it turns out, I did!  Being older than me and having grown up around the time of Crenshaw’s initial popularity, Tim thought it silly that I had never heard him before.  Having no prior knowledge, I was able to listen with fresh ears, not jaded by hits or singles, just liking the tunes.  I had also never had a chance to take in a show at Off Broadway, so two wins already.  And I got in free!  Bonus points.  The venue is great, if ever a chance comes up, you should definitely check it out.  It is equipped with a life size cardboard cut out of Billy Dee Williams, but sadly, no Busch Beer.  Small details though.

Opening the show and serving as Mr. Crenshaw’s backing band were the Bottle Rockets.  Honestly, I was never really into their records, found them a bit flat and dare I say, boring.  So I wasn’t expecting much.  I wasn’t even aware that Keith, the bass player, is the same Keith that tends at a bar here in Springfield, IL.  Shows how much I know.  Anyway, seeing this band play live really opened my eyes to how great their show is.   They really have their shit together.  Thats how I feel good country rock should be heard: drunk at the bar.  The band burned through a set that clocked in at a lean 35 minutes.  Brian Henneman’s vocals were clear and fluid, as were Keith Voegele’s amazing harmony back ups.  Listening to their latest release since the show, seems most of the set was comprised of songs from it, entitled Lean Forward.  Some early period songs riled up the hometown crowd, such as “Radar Gun” and “Indianapolis”.  My new personal favorite, “Welfare Music”, really sold the band for me.  After the set, the boys took a breather for a pleasantly short time and jumped back up to be the back up for Marshall Crenshaw’s back of solid pop rock. 

Never really thought Marshall’s songs would do well with a bar rock treatment, but I was mistaken:  they’re even better this way.  The Rockets really blended well with his songs, making it seem they’d been playing together for years.  Impressive, because this was the first show of the run. 

Marshall’s voice was a point of skepticism for me before hand, but again, my initial ideas were dashed, this time be the revelation that he sounded stellar.  Singer-songwriters seem to just get better, richer vocals as the years go by (see Elvis Costello).  Banter was sparse, save for a few weird quips here and there.  The fellers were having a great time though, evident by the big ol’ shit eatin’ grins they were all sporting.  The songs rolled out seamlessly, starting with “There Se Goes Again” and the fantastic “Mary-Anne”.  The set was a good 50/50 split of old stuff and new, even those of us who saw him play Buddy Holly in La Bamba were treated with “Cryin’ Waitin’ Hopin'” and of course we got “someday, someway”.  The crowd was 100% into the set, which was a treat because I had no prior knowledge of how many people respect this dude’s talent, which is immense.  The set came to a much to fast end, but ended funner still with Keith taking the lead for a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” (who’s drummer joined the band the next night in Bloomington). 

The crowd dispersed and Marshall and the Rockets tore their own gear down, something that forever gains respect from me.  I vaguely remember shaking an extremely polite Marshall Crenshaw’s hand and telling him this and also my sadness of not hearing “Distance Between Me and You”, but I was drunk, you see.  Tim and I stumbled into the night, into quite the blizzard, and found a friend’s house nearby.  Dont drive drunk, safety first!  Do give Marshall a listen, I guarantee you will not be let down. (video isn’t mine, just another really cool guy at the show.  Thanks).

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