John Hiatt @ The Pabst Theater
Friday, June 27, 2008
John Hiatt knows how to show an audience a good time, as evidenced by an evening he christened “Summerfest Indoors” to an enthusiastic Pabst Theater crowd Friday.
“Hello, young people,” Hiatt said as a greeting to his mostly older but jubilant fans. “Your mayor said this week is all about fellowship, beer and entertainment, and that’s what we’re about tonight.”
The entertainment part, which kicked off at 9 p.m., lasted about 2 hours and went a long way toward creating fellowship between the audience and Hiatt’s band, The Ageless Beauties, with or without the beer. The quartet ran through a dozen or so Hiatt hits, leaving everyone exhausted and satisfied.
Hiatt has always been a genre-straddling American original, his raw-throated, honey-coated yowl flowing with worldly wisdom. Friday’s song selection proved his work to be as timeless as the “beauties” in his band were ageless.
The Beauties, in fact, provided a solid blues-rock backbone that complemented Hiatt’s skills, with drummer Kenneth Blevins and bassist Patrick O’Hearn filling the hall with rhythmic sound. The evening’s real musical star was guitarist Doug Rancio, who coaxed some remarkable tones out of a variety of instruments, including his six-string Fender, a dobro and a mandolin.
Starting with “Perfectly Good Guitar,” Hiatt spun through a variety of audience favorites, including “Cry Love,” “Slow Turning,” “Tennessee Plates,” “Feels Like Rain” and “Memphis in the Meantime,” done as an audience sing-along. The group closed with a two-number encore, “The Tiki Bar is Open” and “Thing Called Love,” the Hiatt-penned hit for singer Bonnie Raitt.
Hiatt also peppered his set with a number of tunes from Same Old Man, his 19th and most recent album of what he described as “some more goofy love songs.” Numbers like “Cherry Red” and “What Love Can Do” proved his maturing work anything but goofy.