My year-end top tens last December didn't include a "best concerts" category but there's no doubt that if they did, Alejandro Escovedo would have been pretty high on it. I saw him for the first time at an 'XPN free-at-noon back in June '06 and he just blew me, and the whole the room, away. Escovedo looks kind of meek and has written a whole bunch of beautiful, gentle songs, so it was kind of surprising to see him and his band rip into some serious rock and roll music.
Well, he was back in the area earlier this month to wrap up Camden County's free summer concert series at the Dell in nearby Haddon Heights, NJ. Even in a breezy and relaxed outdoor setting, Escovedo was still his usual intense self. Watching him move around the stage - sort of "visiting" (and jamming with) one of the band members any time he didn't need to be at the microphone - you got the idea that he wanted to pull the best performance possible from each of the people playing up there with him. And the musicians he tours with were up for the challenge. Even the violinist and cellist jammed pretty hard when they had to.
Escovedo played a bunch of songs he hadn't played back when I last saw him. One of his biggest songs, relatively speaking, is "Castanets." That song somehow ended up on Dubya's iPod, and for a while there Escovedo wouldn't play it live because of that. But now that Bush is on his way out (and the Austinite Escovedo isn't real happy about him coming back to Texas when he does finally leave the While House) the song is back on his playlist. He also dedicated the beautiful "Sensitive Boy" to his brother and did a couple of covers as an encore, ending with an incredible take on the Stone's "Beast of Burden" that you probably could have heard three towns over.
I had my camera with me and took some shots. Usually when I go to a free-at-noon concert I also link to the NPR archive of the show, but this show wasn't broadcast on 'XPN (though they were a sponsor). However, I did a little googling and found out that someone did indeed record the show and they've posted it to the live music section of the Internet Archive, and it sounds like it was recorded right off the soundboard. Go here to hear it - it's streaming and it's available for free download.