Measured Extravagance

2000-10-06 - 8:38 a.m.

I love the Belcourt Theatre as a concert venue - no smoking, low idiot count (there was a couple that brought their three-year-old last night, but at least it was well-behaved during the actual performances), no need to dodge obstreporous frat boys who don't give a damn about the lyrics they paid good money to hear (unlike the clods at the Pearl Jam gig earlier this summer). Nevertheless, I was feeling bad for Marshall Crenshaw's opening act last night - a sparse crowd "so polite you're scaring the crap out of me," as he put it - and while I was wondering if I should yell out to him "tell us your name" (he eventually introduced himself in the middle of his final song), I tried to remember the monikers and music of other opening acts I'd seen.

Truth to tell, I don't remember a lot of them. The best find was Magnapop, who opened for Sugar some years ago at St. Andrew's Hall. I can't remember if Joni Mitchell was double-billed with Bob Dylan or his second opening act (I got so lost trying to find the stadium parking lot that I missed the first act entirely, but I got greeted by my date with the words, "Perfect timing. The first act was an aging rocker who didn't know when to quit") but I do remember her performing one of her songs a la Dylan, which was a scream. (Though, to be precise, singing a la Dylan is more of a raspy growl.) Then there was a Scottish outfit at Shelter whose name has completely escaped me, but whose set still stays in mind because they got so frustrated with trying to outplay the upstairs noise from St. Andrew's that they gave up playing real songs and simply jammed (lots of Zeppelin in there) for the twenty remaining minutes they were onstage).

Anyway, last night's opener was one Tommy Womack, who turned out to be a hilarious pissed-off folk-rocker.* I wasn't sure I wouldn't be waiting out the set with a beer when he started out by lighting a stick of incense and leading the audience through "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" - but then he launched into Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," and anyone who can slip in a snide aside about "Murder in Music Row" into the lyrics is okay by me.

The other highlight of Womack's set was what he called "the longest song you'll hear this week" (played right after "the shortest song you'll hear this week," which featured the observation "I want to be a good Christian rocker, but the devil has all the good drummers"), a tribute to the Replacements that had everyone in my row laughing out loud.

During his set, Womack plugged Freedom Sings, the compilation record of banned and censored songs produced by Nashville's First Amendment Center. It's only $3 and, if I remember correctly (saw a news blurb a while back and am only now getting around to mailing in for it), it includes "Eve of Destruction," "The Ghetto," Dylan, Guthrie and others. You can order it here.


*Well, surfing around the Net this morning, it turns out Mr. Womack's a veteran rock-and-roller, but last night's show was acoustic and he sounded like a folkie to these ears, so that's what's I'm callin' him until I hear more.

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