Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Richard Thompson at DPAC : Review & Setlists

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell with Richard Thompson
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham, NC
Saturday, March 30

Harris and Crowell delivered a solid, nostalgic retrospective following a scintillating opening set from Richard Thompson.

Thompson began the evening powerfully with three songs from his recently-released Electric album (“before we get to those timeless hits you came to hear,” he joked).  Though he couldn’t do a representative sampling from his extensive career in his allotted hour, the 10 songs he packed in did include several highlights from the past.  The electric trio, with bassist Taras Prodraniuk and drummer Michael Jerome, is an ideal vehicle for showcasing Thompson’s guitar work, and he took full advantage with an abundance of riveting solos complementing his trademark wry lyrics.  “Can’t Win” was incendiary, and the audience responded with a rousing standing ovation.  By the time he closed with a scorching, sing-along “Tear Stained Letter,” it was clear that Thompson had made new fans while giving the ones who came to hear him a good fix until the next full RT show.

Harris & Crowell did span their musical history during their 23-song set. Opening and closing with familiar songs from their catalogs, the duo, backed by a five-piece band, played nine selections from their recent Old Yellow Moon album mid-set.  Standouts included “Bluebird Wine” (the first track on Harris’ debut album, and the one responsible for getting Harris & Crowell together, it also appears on Old Yellow Moon), which earned a standing ovation, and “Dreaming My Dreams,” with Harris sounding angelic, beautiful vocal harmonies with Crowell and ethereal pedal steel from Steve Fishell.  Patti Scialfa’s “Spanish Dancer” and “Tulsa Queen,” one of four songs played from Harris’ 1977 Luxury Liner, were among other Emmylou highlights.  While the age in Harris’ voice was apparent in the latter, it seemed appropriate for both the song and the evening.  Harris prefaced “Invitation to the Blues” by saying “this is country music,” and it was easy to imagine being at the Opry. Fishell on pedal steel & dobro and Jedd Hughes, an exceptional guitarist, provided notable solos throughout.  Thompson joined the band for “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” and showed restraint in his duet with Hughes, sticking with the middle strings and avoiding the pyrotechnics which marked Thompson’s own set.  Still, his solos seemed to soar effortlessly.

As well-performed as Harris’ & Crowell’s set was, following Thompson’s fireworks it seemed subdued by comparison.  The audience response, enthusiastic during Thompson’s set, was polite for Harris & Crowell, even though the majority of the crowd no doubt came to hear them. Their set might have benefited from the inclusion of more upbeat tunes like Crowell’s “Lovin’ All Night” (which our local Duke Street Dogs have featured in their recent shows).  But their show wasn’t about lovin’ all night – rather, it reminisced about the days when they did.  Harris, recalling her tour with Crowell in 1976, wondered aloud how they survived “having that much fun,” and their set was marked by nostalgia.  Thompson, touring behind an album which is, arguably, his strongest since 1999’s Mock Tudor, brought a passionate intensity to his playing, which seems to be improving with age.  “Stars on the Water,” the first song in the Harris/Crowell encore, was an apt metaphor for the contrast between the two acts.  The gentle image of raindrops on water and a blazing comet; water & fire.


Richard Thompson Electric Trio
1. Stuck on the Treadmill
2. Sally B
3. Salford Sunday
4. Keep Your Distance
5. Can’t Win
6. Saving the Good Stuff for You
7. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (solo acoustic)
8. Good Things Happen to Bad People
9. If Love Whispers Your Name
10. Tear Stained Letter

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
1. Return of the Grievous Angel
2. Wheels
3. Pancho and Lefty
4. Earthbound
5. Till I Gain Control Again
6. Tragedy
7. Luxury Liner
8. Hanging Up My Heart
9. Invitation to the Blues
10. Spanish Dancer
11. Bluebird Wine
12. Dreaming My Dreams
13. Back When We Were Beautiful
14. Chase the Feeling
15. Black Caffeine
16. Tulsa Queen
17. Old Yellow Moon
18. I Ain’t Living Long Like This (with Richard Thompson)
19. Still Learning How to Fly
20. Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
21. Stars on the Water
22. I’ll Be Your San Antonio Rose
23. Love Hurts

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