The Patterson Hood Concert Review

December 2, 2009

I do concert reviews here on RATDOTL when I catch a show worth commenting on, and occasionally I receive a comment from someone who stumbles across my blog and happened to see the same show. I’d be very surprised if that happens with this one, because the show I’m reviewing was to a very limited audience in a place a bit out of the way.

I’m an avid fan of the Drive by Truckers. I’ve seen them twice in concert—once for the Brighter than Creation’s Dark tour, once co-headlining with the Hold Steady for Rock and Roll Means Well.  I rave about their shows, their albums and their live DVDs on this site quite often and BTCD took the number one spot for album of the year here last year. Patterson Hood released a superb solo album earlier this year, Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Stories) and in support of that album he’s been on tour with the musicians that helped him bring it to life (called the Belevederes and the Screwtopians alternately). I found out on Facebook that he would be performing at the Zodiac theatre in Florence, Alabama the night before Thanksgiving to a limited audience and I knew I had to go. At the show, Patterson Hood explained that he had been to see a play at the Zodiac on a school field trip when he was a kid and had thought it would be cool to play a show there; years later, in town to visit his dad for Thanksgiving, he got to do just that. His touring band wasn’t with him, so he spent the night performing solo, alternating two acoustic guitars into two giant speakers. Although every member of DBT has a distinctive style and an immense amount of talent as songwriters, vocalists and guitarists, Patterson Hood has always been my favorite of the three current leads. It was amazing to see him pick his way through solo songs and tracks from various DBT albums. He’d take time to explain when he wrote a particular song and what it’s inspiration was. He’d stop to take a quick pull of whiskey, remarking that he was “fighting off a cold with all the medicine I can get.”

The sound was terrific; I’ve never heard an acoustic set so clearly and powerfully. The small theater worked great with the sparse amplification he was using. Generally I don’t sit down at shows, but theatre seating for a thing like this was the only way to go. The set list was one I’d love to have on CD; I’ve tried to piece it together in i-Tunes, but I wish I had the actual versions from the show recorded. I encourage everyone to check out  anything DBT related, but I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t help but encourage the music though, because this is truly one of this generations best groups of songwriters performing some of the best rock and roll still being made. The band as a whole and Patterson Hood as a solo artist are unequivocally authentic– they sound like where they’re from, they write from where they are and they deliver something real. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. The songs are sung in thick southern accents with sometimes out of key voices — as Hood mentioned in the show, “sing along, doesn’t matter if you’re out of key– I am too.”  Yet if you’re a staunch country fan only–classic, alt or new pop–you’re apt to not like it either, because it’s often loud, messy, sometimes vulgar, often deep, messy and complicated. Hood and the Truckers cover southern history, race politics, rock mythology, southern crime syndicates, murders, family feuds and also love stories, family stories turned into songs and tales of debt, drinks, work, nature, doubt, fear, helplessness, hope, marriage, lust and regret. There’s not a one word description of the genre; I tell people it’s punk-country southern hard-rock folk music. Sounds heavy and loaded, but it’s all of these things in a bubbling melting pop. The truckers have done nothing but get better, each album one-upping the last. Patterson’s Murdering Oscar from this year emerged from some of his earliest songs put on cassette and recently rediscovered and re-performed mixed with his middle-aged and thoughtful counterpoint replies to those earlier songs. In the Zodiac show he performed his scathing indictment of marriage, “Screwtopia” followed by his recently written adult reply, “Grandaddy”  which he said he wrote from his “older and hopefully wiser viewpoint.” The set list included  many of Patterson’s great DBT album cuts– “The Living Bubba,” “Heathens,” “The Opening Act,” “My Sweet Annette,” “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife,” as well as tracks from the new solo album and songs like “George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues,” and “The Great Car Dealer War” from the new rarities collection.

The Zodiac show was a lucky and great experience for me. It was such a relaxed event, walking right by him as he spoke with friends and fans, sitting right by the stage as he spoke to us like neighbors. Although this was a one-off, I highly recommend to anyone reading this to catch him with the backing band as he resumes the Murdering Oscar solo tour which runs through spring 2010. It won’t be an acoustic set, but it’s like seeing the Truckers any time; each show is different and well worth the price of admittance. The fact that you can usually see these folks for less than 20 bucks in a venue that’s up close and personal is remarkable from a fan perspective, but it’s sad in that they deserve to fill stadiums. Could they do so and remain pure and authentic? I think so; I can picture them following the model of the Heartbreakers or the E-Street Band in that respect. Regardless, catch this show and pick up any or all of the great 2009 DBT products– The live CD/DVD pack “Live from Austin, TX,” the Patterson Hood solo record (also available on vinyl with 3 additional songs) or the great DBT rarities collection, “The Fine Print.”


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