Thursday, March 13, 2008



I was disappointed when I realized that Johnette Napolitano was going to be doing a solo acoustic set at SXSW. After all, I'd just sat through an uninspired set by Bob "Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love" Lind --one of those "What the hell am I doing here?!?" moments.

But my disappointment subsided about two seconds after Johnette opened her throat and start wailing. This woman can belt! In her sexy Morticia Addams dress, Johnette definitely showed that singer-songwriter gigs don't have to be gimpy. I'd seen her twice before with Concrete Blonde, but this might have been the most powerful performance of hers I've ever witnessed.

She balanced the set with newer tunes and familiar Concrete Blonde songs like "Joey" and "Mexican Moon." The highlight had to be her a capella version of "Tomorrow Wendy." Even though she let out the "I told the priest ..." verse, the song was just devastating. She's been doing the song for nearly 20 years, but the emotion last night was raw and deep.

Other Wednesday favorites:

* Van Morrison: I caught the last few songs of Van the Man's showcase. Believe it ot not, it's the first time I've ever seen him. Playing new or at least unfamiliar material, Van was flawless and soulful as expected. But after seeing Johnette later that night, it was obvious that the venerated Belfast Cowboy wasn't exactly pouring his guts into the show.
* Bayou City Beach Party: This wasn't an official SXSW event. I'd stumbled into this bar called Headhunters on Red River on Tuesday night and appreciated the Tiki decor and biker/punk vibe of the joint. So, after my pals -- who don't have wristbands or badges -- were told they couldn't get in the REM show at Stubbs', we decided to go to Headhunters across the street.

This band, from Houston, was an energetic bunch and singer Blake Shepard is young, but a born showman.

RONNY & REBEKAH * Ronny Elliott: Speaking of worthwhile singer-songwriters, Tampa rocker Elliott is one of my favorites. He played the Florida Bandango party Wednesday afternoon at the Yard gallery. It was a typical Ronny gig. He teamed up with singer Rebekah Pulley. except for Ronny's own "The Brothels in China," the duo concentrated mainly on cover songs such as Johnny Tillotson's "Talk Back Trembling Lips" and a minor-key arrangement of Hank's "Your Cheatin' Heart." Ronny also sat in on one song with songwriter/uke-player Sylvie Simmons.

See more photos HERE.

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