Steve Earle and the Dukes at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 10/14/13

Categories: Last Night

All photos by Mike Durham
Chris Masterson, Steve Earle and Kelley Looney
Do you like Steve Earle? Were you able to see Steve Earle and the Dukes last night at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts but for some reason did not attend? If you considered it but decided to spend the night as a couch potato instead, go ahead and cry.

Let those tears flow 'cause you really did miss one of the best shows to hit the Valley this year.

Graciously, Earle and band the Dukes kicked off the two-hour set with Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" -- a thoughtful way to say hello to Phoenix after a long time between visits while simultaneously paying tribute to the country legend who made his home here. Eleanor Whitmore didn't waste any time showing off her dynamite fiddle skills, cranking up an already excited audience a few more notches. From there, the band went into "The Low Highway," title track from the new full length.

Guitarist Chris Masterson, Whitmore's husband and partner in last night's opening act The Mastersons, moved over to the lap steel to enforce his versatility and smooth guitar mastery. Masterson has done time with a lot of greats, including Wayne Hancock, Hank Williams III, and Son Volt.

It was just before the fourth song, "Calico County," that Earle stopped and greeted the crowd. He seemed in great spirits, joking "With this next song I said you can pack this up and send it to Toby Keith so he can record it and I can get rich. Toby never called so I had to record the damn thing myself," as the band plowed into the rocker that is also featured on the new release.

In fact, the band's set of more than 30 songs featured most of The Low Highway's tracks -- some nice highlights included "Invisible," a sad tune that can't help but force some reflection on what we forget to notice, "Burnin' it Down," a literally incendiary song that tells the story from the perspective of a man wanting to burn down the local Walmart for all the reasons you'd expect, and "Love's Gonna Blow My Way," a breathy, jazzy number which was featured in the second season of TV show Treme (about a New Orleans 'hood which includes Earle in its cast) as an unfinished piece of music.

Frankly, the whole night was a highlight. No real lulls or low points to be had. The longer the band played only seemed to create a longing from the audience to keep it going. The band's chemistry was well past comfortable; it was family. All the familiarity, respect, jokes and probably some of the madness that comes with siblings was prevalent in the spirited playing and the inherent knowledge of one another's moves. Always one to share the spotlight, Earle gave everyone extra opportunities to shine. Bassist Kelley Looney and Will Rigby (also of longtime jangly rockers the dB's) each took vocal duties as part of Earle's extended intro of the band.

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Any "expert" in audio knows that National acts bring their own audio engineers. Local audio departments do not always mix national shows.


Any "expert" in audio knows that National acts bring their own audio engineers. SCPA audio crew did not mix either show.


This was a terrific concert but, to me, most of it sounded simply awful. ‘Way too loud (and I like my music loud!) to the point of distortion. Only about a third of the show had decent audio quality. Did it strike anyone else that way?


@bbbb I'm not sure it was too loud, but I did expect the mix, especially at a venue like SCPA, to be better. Steve's vocals were so submerged into the overall mix that they were hard to hear except on the quietest tunes. Which is a shame when you consider he's one of the best songwriters working today, and you want to hear those lyrics. Interestingly, I thought the sound at the Emmylou Harris / Rodney Crowell show a couple weeks ago had the same problem, so maybe there's an issue with the SCPA's sound people.

Even so, the show was great. I brought some friends from NYC who were not familiar at all with Steve's work and they were blown away. They jokingly asked if all the progressives in Maricopa County were in the audience. 


@kcatbat Just to be right- Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle had their own Audio Engineers with them, so it is not SCPA's crew.  That is their own Engineers they tour with that do what the Artist wants. 

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