Concert Review: James McMurtry at Lee's Palace


21 Jul 2010, 17:22

Tue 13 Jul – James McMurtry, Jadea Kelly

James McMurtry is surly, grumpy, and intense, which is why I love him and his music. He played to a criminally small crowd at Lee's Palace last Tuesday, July 13. When I arrived there were about 60 people in the audience, and by show time there were maybe 100 people. Not a great turnout for a place with a capacity of 500. Although there was a lot happening in Toronto that night, including an Old Crow Medicine Show gig at the Phoenix, which may have pulled some people from the McMurtry show.

If you went to something else instead of McMurtry's gig, it's your loss. The 48-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist played songs from his entire catalog, but mostly focused on his most recent studio release Just Us Kids (2008). He gave a shout-out to his friends from Peterborough, Ontario, and dedicated his classic Choctaw Bingo to them. I loved watching the Peterborough contingent dance up a storm.

He played a new song which he described as "country music for Kiss fans," and told the audience that where he grew up (in northern Virginia), no one listened to country music and "everyone listened to KISS." Then quipped, "They didn't listen to Ernest Tubb." McMurtry can see a phony a mile away.

He and his band, bassist Ronnie Johnson and drummer Daren Hess, played for nearly two hours. McMurtry did play a few songs solo with this guitar, but I was too dumb (drunk?) to write down which ones. Hell, I have a hard enough time keeping a set list! Regardless, McMurtry is a master storyteller with a commanding voice. He takes no shit, but doesn't dish it either. Just straight-up, no-nonsense country/rock music. Next time he's in town, more of you fuckers better show!

Set List
1. Bayou Tortous
2. Red Dress
3. Just Us Kids
4. Hurricane Party
5. You'd A Thought
6. Choctaw Bingo
7. Ruby and Carlos
8. Childish Things
9. Frauline O.
10. Restless
11. Freeway View
12. New Song???
13. Fire Line Road
14. No More Buffalo
15. Levelland
16. Too Long in the Wasteland

17. Lights of Cheyenne

I bought the Live in Europe album on eMusic, but it was highly recommend to me that I pick up the DVD. I've been told it's killer. Also, I don't know who runs the pre/post-show music at Lee's, but I greatly enjoyed hearing The Flying Burrito Brothers pre-show, and Uncle Tupelo post-show. Awesome.


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