The Old 97’s have always a lyrical affinity for El Paso. It’s shown up in at least three of their songs. Maybe it’s because it has three syllables and ends in a vowel, which makes it handy for songwriting. Maybe because the name has evocative connotations of a remote and wild place, a place where a Marty Robbins ballad could play out on any given night. It could be that they just like us. Judging by their show at Tricky Falls on Cinco de Mayo, this seems the most likely answer.
Nikki Lane opened with a brand new backing band (She quipped from the stage that she had “been hirin’ and firin’ for two weeks”) including a bass player that had only been hired the night before. Her band performed admirably, but lacked the tightness they’ll likely have by the time they get to the end of the tour. Lane played a lot of material from her newest album “All Or Nothing” which doesn’t differ much stylistically from her first record so much as it hones in on and solidifies her voice as a writer and singer. And what a voice; at times smoky, twangy, plaintive and booming, able to carry over the house PA like a force of nature. I’d like to see her again a little further down the line, with a road band and repertoire that’s been polished to a shine.
The Old 97’s wasted no time getting on stage after Lane’s set and started off with a rousing “If My Heart Was A Car,” leading with and emphasizing the El Paso verse. This was followed by Murry’s standard “W. Texas Teardrops” with it’s El Paso name drops. Having put the audience firmly in the palm of their hand, the band then launched into a solid hour and half of full-throttle action. This was the first stop on the world tour, but the second leg of the longer tour for Most Messed Up. It must have been a sweet spot in their schedules because the band was locked in and ferocious, but not ragged and road weary either.
If you were still on the fence about the new album, take notice: singalongs were noticeably louder and rowdier on the new songs than they were from some old standards off of Satellite Rides and Blame It On Gravity. I think it’s safe to say that “Nashville” off Most Messed Up is going to be a live favorite from now on.
I’m not getting any younger and neither are the Old 97’s. Leaving the club, my ears rang, my feet ached, my throat and lungs hurt from singing along with everyone else. I was tired and not looking forward to the drive back home or the next morning at work. The band must have been wiped out, but hey, that’s rock and roll or alt-country or whatever. You go out, you give it what you’ve got, and hopefully you get something back. We’re all too old to being doing this, but hopefully we’ll keep coming back every couple of years and letting it rip. It’s fun and that’s the point. It’s the Most Messed Up thing to do, and I would’t have it any other way.