Cider Mag Winter 2015 Issue 52 - Page 46

how to play the blues, he knows how to make it fun. It’s more than just the songs that make his concert so attractive. He also knows how to work the crowd. Before launching into “My Baby’s Just as Mean as Me”, a duet sung with Whitemore, he announces “Truth be told I’d never considered writing a fucking duet for this record, for more than one reason I suppose.” After a heavy and colorful rendition of the crowd-pleasing “Copperhead Road”, perhaps his most well-known track, Steve shouts out, “Now all you on parole can go home before your ankle bracelet goes off!” to the cackling pleasure of some of the audience. With his irreverent comedy, it’s easy to see why he’s convinced six different women to marry him — one of them twice. But as the set settles in, Steve uses his comedy to ease into his darker side, admitting “I don’t mind getting married, but I hate getting divorced,” a process that he laments as each time it includes more paper and more money. Somewhere along the way in his latest divorce, Steve made the realization that he’d written, “a lot of fucking songs.” So many, in fact, that he doesn’t 46 • CIDER MAG • remember writing some of them, but as he picks the opening line to “Goodbye” he tells his audience that he’ll never forget writing this one, because it’s the first one he ever wrote sober. After the concert that night I find the words tenderness, humanity, humor, humility, and accessibility scrawled across the top of my page of notes. Even now, I can’t determine which word best characterizes Earle’s performance. Even opaque criticism in a song called “Little Emperor,” targeting former President George W. Bush, displays shades of self-awareness with the introduction, “This is about an asshole from Texas, but it ain’t me!” But it’s roots music; good, honest, heartfelt roots music at that, and even if the song isn’t about him — the lyrics, the chords, the sweaty, plodding performance — they all contain parts of him that he unashamedly shares with his audience. By the end of the exhausting but worthwhile 28 song set, which included a four song encore, one truth rings clear: Steve Earle cares about you, and whatever your demon, your disappointment, your heartbreak, he hopes to show compassion by sharing his own. ■ Winter • 2015