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John Prine 

March 8, Robinson Center Music Hall

In case you were wondering, that was me whistling Saturday at the John Prine concert. Not the short, trilling squawks. Mine were long, piercing soprano shrieks. I drank five Bloody Marys just before the concert and didn't breathe all day Friday in anticipation.

When Prine sauntered onto the stage, looking an awful lot like Mickey Rooney in the role of Paulie Walnuts, with an impish grin and side wings of white hair that gave way to a kind of pomp-spike on top, I had to whistle: There is only one John Prine.

Initially, I'd planned to limit my banshee call to a kind of super-applause at the end of songs and in response to mentions of things I support, like peaches, Jesus and topless dancers. You know, for maximum impact and all.

But when Prine hit on all those in the first song, I threw the plan out the window and decided just to whistle when the spirit moved me. By my count, I averaged seven whistles per song for the first half of the set, though that number is skewed a bit because I whistled 27 times after JP revealed that he wrote “Please Don't Bury Me,” the funniest of all anti-interment songs, at Jack's Fishing Resort in Stone County, Ark., and probably 40 times during “Fish and Whistle” for obvious reasons.

In the second hour of the concert, I got a little winded, but whenever Prine delivered an especially poignant lyric I made sure to let out a shriek in case anyone around me had fallen asleep. Also, whenever he played hits like “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone” and “Hello in There,” I made sure to whistle along with the chorus so everyone could hear the melody better.

After a nearly two-hour set, complete with all my favorite songs, save “In Spite of Ourselves” (come home, Iris Dement) and “Donald and Lydia,” and an encore that included opening act Kane, Welch and Kaplin lending acoustic support to a rousing version of “Paradise,” I quit using my pinkies and went ahead put as many fingers in my mouth as I could fit and blew as hard as I could. Applause is fine and good, but when you're talking John Prine, any sound with force less than glass-breaking won't do. I'm not sure if I broke any glass, but I did pass out and break my arm. No biggie. I'll be back in action in time for Joshua Bell.

 

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