For Alejandro Escovedo, that moment occured during his cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” a Stooges song, which he paired with his own solo hit “Chelsea Hotel ’78.” If “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” paved the way for punk in 1969, Escovedo and his band the Sensitive Boys showed how punk can be performed at its best, the energy of punk mixed the the musicianship of a great rock band.
These days, Escovedo largely gets labeled as an alt-country act. But his show at SLO Brew Friday channeled far more punk and rock than country. Largely playing tunes off of his three most recent solo albums — all co-written with Chuck Prophet — Escovedo powered through some of his more boisterous tunes, like “Man of the World,” from his current album “Big Station.” Other times, he and the band offered nice, warm grooves on tunes like “San Antonio Rain,” another new song.
Guitarist Billy White added sonorous — but not overdone — solos throughout, while bassist Bobby Daniels and drummer Chris Searles provided a remarkably tight — but also active — rhythm section. As for Escovedo, he might not have the greatest voice in the music business, but like Richard Thompson, he knows how to use it — whether it be on a rollicking number like “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” a catchy rock tune like “Anchor” or a soulful ballad like “Sabar A Mi,” sung in Spanish.
Having started out with the punk band The Nuns, Escovedo has come a long way — even though the lifestyle nearly killed him. Now in his 60s, he seemed to have hit a musical stride late in life, thanks to a writing partnership with Prophet which has been promoted by Jon Landau’s management.
Too bad there weren’t more people at the show. I was near the front of the stage — easy to do in this crowd — so I couldn’t get a great read on how many people were there. But I doubt the place was half full.
This from a guy who performed before 18,000 with buddy Bruce Springsteen and who has performed on several late night talk shows. And this for a guy who was one of the pioneers of punk on the West Coast.
The small crowd didn’t seem to impact Escovedo, who closed with two classic covers — “Beast of Burden” by the Stones and the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” — performed with opening act Jesse Malin.
While his Stooges cover marked a musical climax, the icing on the cake was just as sweet.
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