Review: Merle | Rock Candy

Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Merle

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 5:01 PM

unknown.jpg



Merle Haggard
Robinson Center Music Hall, June 7

Merle Haggard played a little trick on his audience last Sunday night at Robinson Auditorium. After introducing a song he claimed to have written only the day before, he jumped into “Love’s Always Pretty When It’s New” – a swing tune he’s been playing on the road since at least last year.

The joke – which only the most obsessive Haggard fan could have understood without a little research – was a fitting one. “This is all smoke and mirrors,” Haggard cryptically quipped at another point of the show. Indeed it was. The concert on Sunday was a shadow of a live performance. “Canned” is how a fellow concertgoer accurately put it. At only an hour in length, and filled with performances containing only a modicum of feeling, the show left me with the sense that that I’d just watched a greatest hits album.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Haggard is resting on his laurels these days. He has plenty of them – including “Mama Tried,” “Silver Wings,” and “Swinging Doors,” all of which he played in workmanlike fashion on Sunday. Such decades-old hits took up the majority of the concert, though Haggard did play some material a bit removed from the beaten path. Noteworthy in this regard was his take on “I Had a Little Mule,” a Bob Wills song on which Haggard switched his acoustic guitar for a fiddle.

Haggard, whose voice is still strong, was pretty good on that fiddle. He was pretty good on the acoustic guitar, too, at least when he actually played it, as he did on “Mama’s Prayer.” But these signs of life only accentuated the mediocrity of the rest of the show. Chalk part of it up to the Strangers, his ten-man band. Besides the pedal steel player, who did the heavy lifting, they looked more like cheerleaders than musicians. Robinson should also share some of the blame. Though the hall is beautiful and the sound excellent, the distance it imposes between audience and performer can make for bloodless chemistry.

Whether the crowd felt the same dissatisfaction is an open question. There was plenty of hollering for specific songs, which Haggard acknowledged only by saying he couldn’t hear a damn word of it. It seemed that he had things pretty much mapped out, from “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” the opener, to the obligatory closer, “Okie from Muskogee.”

In introduction to the latter song, Haggard commented, “If you don’t like this one, put it in your pipe and smoke it.” The remark drew some laughs – the song’s narrator doesn’t care for marijuana, after all – but it might also have been a subtle screw-you to the crowd. A customer paying full price for this show – three figures for some seats – would not be faulted if he felt a bit duped. As Haggard left the stage, a good portion of the crowd left with him, certain that they would not get an encore. Sure enough, the house lights came on two minutes later. Perhaps the audience would have had a better time that night if they’d followed the advice of another of Haggard’s hits: “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.”

John C. Williams
 

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The First Amendment, Yo Edition

    The latest in the legal fight to stop a law that would prevent Planned Parenthood from performing abortions in Arkansas, the cancellation of a rap show in Little Rock and its First Amendment implications, a stunning investigative report on drug court defendants being forced to work for free for Arkansas poultry companies and bellicose Tom Cotton — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Come with the Arkansas Times to the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

    After several years of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro hosting benefit concerts to raise money for the restoration of Johnny Cash's boyhood home, this year the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival debuts in Dyess just outside the Cash homeplace. And of course the Arkansas Times is chartering a bus to be there. The lineup is spectacular: Kris Kristofferson (one of the greatest songwriters of all-time easily), Rosanne Cash, Joanne Cash and Tommy Cash and Buddy Jewel.
    • Oct 13, 2017
  • Arkansas State Fair opens the midway

    and much more.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Judge anticipates punishment of lawyers in Fort Smith class action case

    Federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith issued a 32-page ruling yesterday indicating he contemplates punishment of 16 lawyers who moved a class action lawsuit against an insurance company out of his court to a state court in Polk County after a settlement had been worked out.
    • Apr 15, 2016
  • John Goodson and others add lawyers for hearing on forum shopping

    Lawyers facing federal court sanctions for forum shopping a class action insurance case have brought in new legal guns from out of state to fight potential sanctions.
    • May 26, 2016
  • Lawyers plead for mercy in Fort Smith forum shopping case

    Twelve of the lawyers facing punishment by federal Judge P.K. Holmes in Fort Smith for moving a class action case against an insurance company out of his court to a state court where it was speedily settled have filed their argument against sanctions.
    • Jun 16, 2016

Most Shared

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

More »

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation