The drive to Los Angeles last week wasn't all that bad for a mid-week rush hour drive. And we got to UCLA (go Bruins!) with enough time to eat a cold dinner available in a side room at Royce Hall. Although Maria has seen Allison Moorer before, she just doesn't remember her. I don't know how that can be. Her beautiful voice and striking looks are hard to forget. I'd mention her songwriting, but her new CD is a cover CD with her performing songs from her favorite female artists. And so, the show pretty much stuck to the new CD. Which is too bad, because Allison can write; as the opening song in her show and the title track from her new "Mockingbird" CD will attest to. It is the only original song on the CD and may have been the only original we saw that night. My take on acoustic performances is that you need to do more than just sing the songs. You need to engage the audience. I really don't think Allison did this either. So, although I could listen to Allison sing all night, the performance could have been (and has been in the past) much much better. She did do a great job interpreting the songs, especially Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" and Julie Miller's "Orphan Train".
Steve Earle's show was an extended version of the show we saw in Austin last September. He played most of the new CD, "Washington Square" accompanied by just his guitars and a DJ. But the show opened with a set of oldies. Nothing political, nothing radical. Just songs the long time fans would love. And they yelled with joy as each new song showed up. This took up the first half of the show, with Steve barely saying a word to the audience (a couple choice remarks here and there, otherwise he just played). But, when he played the anti-death penalty song "Billy Austin", you could see things were about to change. And sure enough, at the end of the song, the DJ came out and the second half of the show was the political side of Mr. Earle, with songs from the new CD and a much more talkative Steve. Allison came out for a handful of songs, singing backup. And when it was over, we had a full 2 hour set with a bit of everything Steve Earle has to offer. He pretty much finished the evening telling everyone, "I'm going to sing this song until it comes true or I die" and then sang "Jerusalem", a song about dreaming of peace in the Middle East.
Overall I enjoyed the shows. Maybe I've been hitting the clubs too much. I really expect every performer to spend time with the audience. Is that too much to ask?