The Magic Stick, Detroit, Nov. 7th 2007

During the obligatory “technical difficulties” every opener must inevitably endure, Brian Johnson quipped half to the audience and half to his fellow Whiskey & Co band mates, “Hey, you guys hear about that cow falling off a cliff and landing on a car?” Everyone in earshot chuckled. Over my shoulder I heard a miscellaneous dudebro whisper to his companion dudebro, “Yeah, I guess it happens once every seventeen years… You know, statistically…” Quote of the night.

The Gainesville opener could stand to either lose a guitar player or vary the sound a bit. There’s really no need to have three six strings, when each is strumming the same thing. Catchy hooks sung beautifully by Kim Helm might have been brought up a notch by a peppering of some boy/girl harmonies. But I don’t know if it was me or them I just couldn’t help my eyes from creeping around the room and my concentration from wondering what I would be charged for a Two Hearted ale (I think beer prices are tied to the NASDAQ, was that down today?).

The second act brought me there in the first place. When Bobby Bare Jr.’s keyboardist sound-checked with an impromptu solo version of Proud Mary I knew we were in for a treat. Bare traveled with three others; pedal steel, keys, and drums. His lush records we’re done surprising justice with this stripped down Young Criminal Starvation League. Exactly the opposite of W&Co., the aforementioned keyboardist handled a multitude of jobs. On the Rhodes (right hand) and synth’ (left hand) he mimicked the records bass and lead/rhythm guitar/keys. The primarily Lucero-fan crowd gravitated to the stage tighter and tighter with each passing minute. It’s no surprise; Bare has a knack for connecting on an intimate level. He should, great songwriting is literally in his blood. Opening and closing with tracks from his 2004 LP, From the End of Your Leash, and filling the space between with harder hitting renditions of tracks from his most recent 2006 LP The Longest Meow, Bare (as the headliner’s lyric goes) “set ‘em up” readying Lucero to “knock ‘em down.”

Shirtless/hairless boys with studded belts bounded by a wall of sober guards

With Lucero on stage you have to apply more attention to the obtuse circle formed from the first few rows of the Team Young crowd than to the band. Oh, unless you enjoy getting smacked in the face with a pair of ESs. Lately a lot of Detroit critics, bloggers, and fans have been asking, “Where are all the people?” Simply put, tonight they were here. It’s a working class town and Lucero is a working class band. The formula is plain but effective. The band delivers powerful hook after powerful hook and the crowd splashes PBR in unison to each line. Even passive observers have a hard time not feeling absorbed by it.