Steve Earle at The Apex

The Apex

Bury St Edmunds

18th October 2015

Been looking forward to this for ages, as it is not often that a true legend comes to town – sadly that isn’t yet Bijoux Toots who entertained splendidly in the bar beforehand – the country music/Americana superstar Steve Earle who has been at the top of the tree for thirty years or so, and shows no sign of dropping from his lofty perch.

But first came the support from The Mastersons, half of Steve’s band The Dukes, a husband and wife duo from Texas who perform their own stuff with class and panache. Theoretically they should tick all my like boxes but, somehow, it all rather passed me by so I will add nothing more, sorry.

Love or loathe the great man a Steve Earle show cannot ever just pass you by, and this one had plenty of ups and downs in its nearly Springsteen like length. Steve’s latest album “Terraplane” is barely a year old and, understandably, still features very heavily in his set and his opening salvo featured, among others, “Best lover I ever had” “Nobody’s daddy now” and, in duet with Masterson Eleanor Whitmore, “My baby’s just as mean as me”, all from said album.

As “Terraplane” is almost exclusively a blues album it seemed appropriate for Steve to open the locker and pull out one of his classic songs “My old friend the blues”, followed in short order by some of his other biggies such as “Guitar town” “Copperhead Road” and “Galway girl” which has given me the urge to catch up with Sharon Shannon sometime soon.

But far and away the best bit from this part of the set was Steve’s poignant rendering of his own song “Goodbye”, a song widely heard on “Wrecking ball” the album that rebooted the career of Emmylou Harris in the 1990s.

After some more of the rockier songs from his vast back catalogue, for the final straight, it was back to the matter in hand and more songs from “Terraplane” including “Go go boots are back” upon which I will confess complete bafflement, and, much more to my taste, musically and emotionally, was “Better off alone”. For the last song he chose to show his love and mastery of the blues by taking on the best loved noise that came from the guitar of Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe”, he lost narrowly on a penalty shoot-out.

For me Steve Earle is clearly at his best when someone waves a red rag in front of him and he charges it with the passion and intensity of a wounded bull, usually a bull’s eye is scored. Definitely so in the case of the first encore, “Mississippi it’s time” which relates to that state being the only one to have confederate paraphernalia on its federal buildings. Then things returned to the default rock setting for “The revolution starts now” and, finally, the heaviest version of “Wild thing” that I have ever heard, and one can only imagine dear old Reg Presley turning in his grave.

So that was it, huge cheers all around but, for me, a bit of a curate’s egg with the difference between light and shade being marginal to say the least. But that is the beauty of a Steve Earle show, you never know quite what you are going to hear and that is certainly something to applaud.