Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stan Ridgway today

I caught Stan Ridgway live the other night at San Francisco's Red Devil Lounge (a cozy spot that I liked very much, by the way).

He put on a good show, but it was a decidedly low-key affair. There are any number of reasons for this, I suspect — not being backed by a major label, an elaborate touring group is likely beyond his reach, for one thing — but the main reason almost certainly is that he simply is no longer young. Midway through the show I realized that he looks like a grandfather. It's startling to realize that he is, or will be, fifty-nine this year.

I miss his more energetic performances of classics like "Camouflage" (and hey, Stan, what was the point of dropping the lines, "Well, I was gonna ask him where he came from when we heard the bullets fly / Coming through the brush and all around our ears / It was then I saw this big Marine light a fire in his eyes / And it was strange but suddenly I forgot my fears"?). I'm happy, though, that his voice remains more or less unchanged, and that he seems to have found reliable bandmates in Pietra Wexstun and Rick King.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear "The Roadblock" and "Knife and Fork", less well-known songs I've always enjoyed. Another pleasant surprise was "Lost Weekend", an unusually relaxed Wall of Voodoo number it has been years since I heard him perform live. It was a hoot to hear him forget a couple of lines from "Drive (She Said)" since I've always found that one difficult to memorize. (In contrast, "Camouflage" is easy despite being twice as long.) "Call of the West" was a highlight, in no small part because it brought out a little of his younger, edgier self.

He also did one or two numbers from his most recent studio release, Mr. Trouble, but I've already forgotten which. This is not to slight the album: I simply hadn't heard it before the show so I wasn't familiar with any of the songs. In fact, based on my couple of listens, Mr. Trouble's new material seems to be top-notch. I share the AllMusic reviewer's disappointment, though, that there isn't more of it: only six of the ten songs are new tracks, the remaining four being from a 2010 live show.

Ridgway hung out at the merch table after the show to chat and to sign autographs. Contrary to rumors I heard many years ago, he seems to be a genial and approachable man; he patiently listened to me blurt out that I'd been a fan since 1986 and was happy to sign my copy of Silly Songs for Kids, Vol. 1.

Ridgway continues to put out intriguing, sometimes fascinating music. I'm quite glad to have stuck with him as a fan for all these years.

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