Lady FWO and I braved the icy wind and rain to go along to the Concert Hall last night to see Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell in concert on the first stop of their Australian tour. There are not too many places where the FWO can bring the average age down, but a quick look around where we were sitting suggested that I could.
But it wasn’t so much the age as the atrophied approach of some of the audience – the bozo I was unfortunately sitting next to became anxious and upset that I was tapping, and just tapping, my foot on the floor to the beat “that’s really upsetting me mate” – he sat like a stunned mullet all evening not even applauding until a desultory clap at the end of the 90 minute set…why did he even bother?
And the party of four behind us spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Slim Whitman, Slim Dusty and Franke Laine – they weren’t quite sure of any songs sung by Emmylou, but apparently she has performed many times with Kenny Rogers – perhaps as big a surprise to him as her. I think they were at the wrong show, too…and was convinced when their conversation morphed into an assessment of the relative merits of heavy as opposed to fine wool trousers and UHT milk.
But then the dynamic duo appeared and launched into Return of the Grievous Angel – from the amazing Gram Parsons album which propelled Emmylou into the consciousness of musical devotees. A quick foray into Wheels and then one of my favourite Emmylou songs, Pancho and Lefty, from her fantastic Luxury Liner album –it was written and first recorded by the late (and great) Townes van Zandt, but I just love her version.
From this brilliant beginning they traversed Rodney Crowell songs (Houston Kid), as well as tracks from their two albums together, Old Yellow Moon and The Travelling Kind, and Crowell’s Kin release; and dropped in Boudleaux Bryant’s seminal track, Love Hurts, recorded by many from the Everly Brothers to Nazareth, but never better than by Emmylou and Gram on his Grievous Angel LP.
The 90 minutes or so flew past when they performed an outstanding version of Just Pleasing You, from their latest recording together, and then left the stage before returning for three short encores, the last of which Emmylou’s haunting paean to Gram Parsons, Boulder to Birmingham.
It was a brilliant concert, both singers effortlessly supporting the other, and backed by a band of great musicians; Emmylou’s angelic voice never disappoints and her recent collaborations with Crowell are certainly evidence that both of these long-time friends are still at the top of their game.