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Steve Earle exposes his heart & soul in Westbury

2/9/14

                Westbury has a new venue for concerts.  The Space is another concert venue for Long Island, which has Huntington’s Paramount, Amityville’s Revolution Bar, Rocky Point’s Suffolk Theater, the Bolton Center in Bay Shore and while we are at it, NYCB Westbury theater, Landmark, Port Washington, and some others which means all of us on Long Island can see a decent show almost every weekend.  Last night was the first show I saw at The Space which I understand is a converted movie theater.  It’s an odd theater

, seems like you’re walking into a store front and soon corralled in a sparse lobby.  We went out onto the main floor and were shown our seats. The aisles were narrow and difficult to squeeze through while holding a couple of beers and a glass of wine.  The venue reminded me of The Paramount, with a bar off to one side and seats in a balcony in the back, the tall ceilings with exposed industrial air vents, and a cozy stage. It was warm in the theater and seemed to be sparsely attended.   I was not sure if Earle was popular to the Long Islanders since I’m a late bloomer to Earle who later performed a two hour solo set to what was then close to a sellout. 
Before Mr. Earle, was Brooklyn based Dawn Landes who had a pitch perfect voice which reverberated between the walls.  I’m not that familiar with her work, but am kicking myself for not buying a copy of her new album, Blue.  Her last song was Blue which was different from her other standard country folk jangles.   She also had the crowd singing Pete Seeger’s Turn, Turn, Turn which surprised her – the response from the audience.
After a brief intermission and without an introduction Earle slowly walked onto the stage, wearing a baggy shirt, chains dangled from a wallet in his back pocket, a red bandanna wrapped around his right wrist and his thinning greyish hair and long disheveled beard gave the illusion this man was a pondering soul who was lost.  He picked up a guitar and started playing, actually didn’t really stop till he described having an 8th grade education and researching by reading different topics.  “If I didn’t know why something was happening, I’d read.  I’m always reading.”  Mr. Earle did not sound like a man with a limited education.   At times in the first half of the show I felt he was tapping in Tom Wait territory.  His ability to write songs which kept tapping at scars and exposing their pains which is what Mr. Earle has had a lot of pain in his life, battled addictions, broken marriages, time in jail, the tortured soul, his youngest son diagnosed with autism...rehab...the sound of his lone boot thumping in cadence echoed from hollow stage floor, an isolated performance from a dim stage.  One song which resonated was his take on God.  God is God, “We can learn to play the songs the angels play.”  I believe in God and God ain’t me…” The Devil’s Right Hand is an anti-gun song although he denied it when it was first recorded, since he was raised with guns.  When an ex-wife told him that he need to raise his rebellious son, Justin Townes Earle found a 9 mm which his father kept under the mattress, but Justin denied finding it.  Steve described getting him in the truck, like tackling a deer and dragging him in, and took his son to a labor camp for juveniles.  After one day at the camp; Justin called and told him where he could find the gun.  There were other stories like playing and recording with Pete Seeger and close the end of the show an obnoxious woman, maybe she was drunk and frustrated, but she demanded he play a certain song, I think it was Copperhead Road.  He told her he had a plan and, “Hold onto to your knickers.”  She went back at him, the audience started booing her and Earle went back to his songs and the show continued. 

      Steve is passionate about his progressive causes and he was clear, he will always be passionate and not give up the hope for peace and social justice in the world.  He saw the change take place in Northern Ireland, from when he first toured there and saw tanks in the roads to these days which is a peaceful place without barbed wires the roving tanks.  He hopes the same can take place in Jerusalem.  He described recording with an Israeli musician which took place is a studio owned by a Palestinian, a Muslim engineers the controls in the studio and he said as long as he can, he will always play his song Jerusalem.

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