Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

John Prine
Saturday, Oct. 2, 4:10pm
Rooster Stage
Reviewed by Nick Dedina

Believe it or not, I was a little weary of seeing John Prine live. Even though I love his work, I've actively avoided seeing him in concert the past few years since I didn't want to have the special glow of his work tarnished if he gave a disappointing, lackluster performance. I shouldn't have worried -- not only was John Prine awesome, he put on the best show that I saw during the entire festival.

Prine, looking like he just got off a trans-Atlantic flight, led a stellar Americana rock band that could go from rockabilly to old style country to Tom Petty powerful in a heartbeat. With a helluva back catalogue to draw from, Prine kicked off with the rebel country of "Spanish Pipedream" and a version of "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" that was dusted off the shelf and directed at the current president. Relaxed and confidant, Prine exuded charisma without seeming to try -- he made a huge festival feel cozy and intimate. That friendly atmosphere continued with such songs as the witty but wise "Fish and Whistle" and the touching, downbeat "I'm Just Getting By" (written decades apart, these two show that Prine's powers as a songwriter have diminished little over the years). "Angel From Montgomery," a yearning masterpiece written from a female perspective, is still a crushing beauty even with Prine's masculine, weathered and whisky-n-cigarettes voice singing it. "Angel..." is yet another Prine tune that has been covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Tanya Tucker but he took a break from his own songs to talk about being introduced to the Carter Family by his brother when he was growing up. After a Carter Family tribute, Prine went into "Some Humans Ain't Human," which he embellished with a new lyric -- "some asshole from Texas starts a war in Iraq" -- to the delight of the crowd.

With the skies starting to get dark, John Prine closed his set with a thrilling, cinematic version of "Lake Marie," a gorgeous rocker that covers everything from love, life, death and the redemptive power of nature. Phew! That's a lot of life to pack into one song but John Prine handles the big themes with rare wit and grace. He tosses off stellar concert appearances with similar ease.

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