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CONWAY — Alejandro Escovedo and his band kept the audience at Hendrix College on Saturday night completely spellbound with their mix of melancholy and passion, country and puck, intensity and tenderness.
The A/V folks had specially prepared the stage for the concert by providing towering stacks of speakers on either end. This enabled the band to produce a wall of sound that engulfed Staples Auditorium.
The first set was a kind of loud, hard-core blues. The music was a combination of harmony and dissonance — pop-ish bass lines and chords contrasted with gypsy-sounding violin riffs and unusual progressions. The two main soloists in the band — Susan Voelz on violin and John Kurcello on lead guitar and pedal steel — played with such intensity it was like they were in their own world. Escovedo would turn to face one of them, like a challenge, and Kurcello would play some blazing guitar solo, or Voelz would dance up and down the fingerboard, bow hairs flying.
Compared with the opening loudness and intensity, the beginning of the second set sounded sweet and gentle. Escovedo performed a slow, acoustic country ballad that brought to mind an evening at a ranch in South Texas. He told a story about his family, and played a song off his new album written for his mother, “Evita’s Lullaby.” In the second set, Escovedo and his band would switch suddenly between sweet acoustic and forceful, driving sounds. Each style served as a foil to the other, the tender style making the other sound more powerful, and vice-versa.
After a standing ovation, and much vocal appreciation (read: whoopin’ and hollerin’) from the Hendrix students, the audience — all admitted at no charge — was lucky enough to get an encore. There was dancing in the aisles to “The Man Who Sold the World,” before Escovedo and Voelz came to the very front of the stage to play unplugged. It was an intimate end to the concert.
Alejandro Escovedo’s new CD, “The Boxing Mirror,” is available in stores, as is his tribute album. “Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo” was compiled by the music community to help raise funds for Escovedo’s medical treatment for hepatitis C, from which he has suffered since April 2003. Escovedo said he’s “fine” now, and taking better care of himself on the road. He tours constantly, but this was his first visit to Central Arkansas in about seven years. Here’s hoping we see him back soon.
— Crystal Wallis
David Lee Roth
Arkansas State Fair
For at least 90 minutes Friday night, a raucous crowd forgot about $7 turkey legs, $5 funnel cakes and fried Twinkies and were taken back to 1984. David Lee Roth came roaring back Little Rock at the Arkansas State Fair, bringing new life to some old Van Halen classics.
The fun-loving rock ’n’ roll fans didn’t know what to expect when they filled the Smirnoff Ice Stage outside on the fairgrounds. Would it be Dave the Ice Cream Man? Dave the EMT? Dave the radio shock jock? Dave the bluegrass artist? But one look at the eight full stacks of Marshall amplifiers answered that question before the first riff was played: This would be the David Lee Roth as former lead singer and rumored to be next lead singer of one of the greatest guitar bands in history –- Van Halen.
Strutting out in clothes that seemed to have been rescued from the last time he toured with Eddie Van Halen and the boys, DLR covered the greatest hits from his solo career including “Going Crazy,” “Living in Paradise,” “Just a Gigolo” and “California Girls.” However, the crowd went crazy when Dave covered Van Halen material, including “Jamie’s Crying,” “Unchained,” “Running with the Devil,” “And the Cradle Will Rock” and “Beautiful Girls.” Although it took two guitarists to try to fill Eddie Van Halen’s shoes, the backup musicians did an admirable job in recreating the Van Halen sound.
The last time Diamond David made a stop in Little Rock was more than 10 years ago at the now-defunct Joe’s Big Bamboo. His kicks may not have been as high this time around and his sampling from his bottle of Jack Daniel’s may have been more of a sip than a swig, but he still knows how to put on a great show. Roth prowled the stage with uncontained energy. Flirting with a posse of self-proclaimed “Beautiful Girls,” making provocative suggestions to one lucky lady who had repeated wardrobe malfunctions, disappearing behind a cloud of smoke during one solo and generally showing off his ribald humor to the all-ages crowd, Roth did a great job in making his case for a reunited Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen admitted earlier this year that he was open to playing with Roth again. Friday night, David Lee Roth appeared more than ready to play with Eddie.
— Mark Frazier