Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Henry Wagons at Bootleg Theater, 2-7-17 Concert Review

Henry Wagons performing "Willie Nelson"
Learning that Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as Secretary of Education really threw me into a funk yesterday. But if there is one thing that is certain to pull me out of even the shittiest of moods, it’s seeing Henry Wagons in concert, and so I was in luck. Henry started his brief U.S. tour (before heading to Canada) at the Bootleg Theater here in Los Angeles last night. And it seemed to me the entire crowd was there for the same thing – to let the music and humor lift them from their malaise and into that delicious stratosphere where Henry seems to dwell, pulling strings, rearranging planets and comets, all for a song and a laugh. And there were plenty of both at this show.

After a wonderful opening set by Paige Calico, Henry took the stage at 9:37 p.m., getting right to business with “Love Me Like I Love You.” Unlike the last time he played this venue, this was a solo set. No backing band. Just all Henry. At the end of “Love Me Like I Love You,” someone from the audience shouted out, “We love you more!” And indeed, this was a very warm and receptive and even eager crowd. Clearly, they had seen him before and knew something of what to expect. Henry joked that based on the quality of that first number, “I think this will probably be the best gig of my life.” He then went into “Head Or Heart,” a tune from last year’s After What I Did Last Night…  He sang a bit of it unmiked at the edge of the stage, and then had the audience laughing with his introduction to “Cold Burger, Cold Fries.” And I mean serious laughter, not polite brief laughter, but that sort of uncontrolled, delightful laughter that makes us all actually feel better by carrying us to some brighter place, where we are all lighter and somehow more ourselves.

Henry mentioned that “2016 was an absolute shocker,” and that 2017 so far was, well, certainly not setting things right. He then played what for me was the biggest surprise of the evening, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower Of Song.” It was a good rendition, though afterward Henry offered an apology to Leonard, “Sorry for butchering your music.” He then talked about letting his body hair grow in preparation for the upcoming tour through Canada. Yup, Canada in February, he’ll need all the warmth he can get. He followed an energetic “King Hit” with another cover, “Friday Night Fever,” a song done by George Strait, as well as by the Silver Jews and other artists over the years. For this song, Henry played keys, and afterward joked that he’d forgotten how. “In Australia, we have the keys in the opposite direction.” (He didn’t mention the upside down Cocktails sign this time.)

Before “Only Child,” and actually during it, Henry lightly teased his dad, who was in the audience. He played keys on that song as well. He followed that with “Drive All Night ‘Til Dawn” and then “Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister,” the latter of which he sang directly to a guy named John from the UK. He thanked the crowd for coming out. “This is the launch pad for the rest of the United States for me.” He then ended the set with a great rendition of “Willie Nelson,” from Rumble, Shake And Tumble, not needing to ask the audience to sing along. They were right there with him.

Set List
  1. Love Me Like I Love You
  2. Head Or Heart
  3. Cold Burger, Cold Fries
  4. Tower Of Song
  5. King Hit
  6. Friday Night Fever
  7. Only Child
  8. Drive All Night ‘Til Dawn
  9. Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister
  10. Willie Nelson
There was no encore. The set ended at 10:18 p.m.

Here are a few photos from the show:

"Love Me Like I Love You"
"Head Or Heart"
"Cold Burger, Cold Fries"
"Friday Night Fever"
"Only Child"
"Willie Nelson"
"Willie Nelson"
The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles. By the way, this is a really good venue. It has a friendly, relaxed vibe, with good lineups. And perhaps even more important is the fact that the sound is always excellent there. It is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles to see live music.

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