Justin Townes Earle + The Sadies 5/26/17, Denver

Dates: May 26, 2017

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

More twang per capita than most folks get in a lifetime, but this time it was the Bluebird Theatre.


At this point I’d have hard time believeing that The Sadies could even put on a bad show. After seeing them last summer in Denver (at the Bull and Bush Pub) and tonight it’s obvious this band’s strength is on the stage. By the time we had arrived the band was already on stage, but only a song or two in and the nearly capacity crowd were completely rapt while the band was playing and erupted in applause n’ hoots once each song was done. Their fan base is very dedicated.

The band hails from Toronto, Canada and is the brainchild of brothers Dallas and Travis Good (with Sean Dean on stand-up bass and Mike Belitsky on drums) and are usually lumped in with the alternative country crowd and while they do mine plenty of country elements in their music, they also include elements of surf and psych into their proceedings as well. The end product is a set of instantly likeable songs (even if you don’t like country music) and the band just exudes a certain energy, flair and a serious love of what they’re doing. It’s really intoxicating. They played a handful of songs off their latest, Northern Passages (Yep Roc) and tossed in a cover of fellow countrymen Blue Rodeo’s “Palace of Gold.” Please keep comin’ back to Denver.

It had been a number of years since I’d last caught Justin Townes Earle (opening up for Jason Isbell at the Aladdin Theatre in Portland in 2011 or so). On this night he was backed by the Sadies (yup, pullin’ double duty) and had an extra guitar player in Lambchop’s Paul Niehaus (who is a monster on guitar). This lineup fit him well.

He’s touring for his band news album, Kids in the Street (New West Records), another strong record from this son of Steve Earle who hasn’t made a bad platter yet. He opened up with a few cuts from said record and then turned back the clock and played some of his older cuts like “Christchurch Woman,” “Move Over Mama” and “One More Night in Brooklyn.” All crowd pleasers.

The cuts from the new record we heard were “Champagne Corolla”, “15-25” and. He then went backwards and we heard stunning versions of “I Killed John Henry,” “Nothings Goma Change the Way You Feel About Me Now” (which he described as “maybe the saddest song I ever wrote”) and he even snuck in a cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”

He left and came back for a few encores (including “Harlem River Blues”) and called it a night.

It’s obvious that Earle is a real talent. He seems to have beaten his battle with the bottle (being newly sober with a baby on the way). I sure hope so, the guy is too damn good to go the way of so many other musicians. We need him here and now.

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