Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell @ The Palais, Melbourne

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EMMYLOU HARRIS & RODNEY CROWELL

PALAIS THEATRE, MELBOURNE – JUNE 25, 2015

It was hardly a surprise to walk away after this superb concert feeling that it was one of the best so far this year. It is not often that we get to see genuine country music legends here in Australia and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell certainly qualify on that score.

Team one of the world’s best singers with one of country music’s best songwriters (and a handy singer himself) and you already have the makings of a great evening. Add a sublime set list and a crack Nashville backing band, including South Australian guitarist Jedd Hughes, and it would seem impossible to go wrong.

The first three songs set the scene: Gram Parsons’ ‘Return of The Grievous Angel’ and ‘Wheels’ (one of the greatest motorcycle songs ever) as well as Townes Van Zandt’s mighty ‘Pancho and Lefty’ (one of the greatest songs ever, period). Harris sailed through these beautifully.

Had the concert ended then and there I would have been more than happy to have experienced that alone. I am not sure how many dozen times I have seen Harris perform ‘Pancho and Lefty’ but it is something of which I could never become weary.

Later, Crowell joined Harris for another Gram Parsons song ‘Love Hurts’ and their voices meshed perfectly, as you would expect from singers who have worked with each other on and off for more than 40 years.

While these songs came from another era and were placed as if to introduce Harris’s substantial legacy, there were another twenty-plus songs from across the catalogues of both artists.

The Grammy Award winning collaboration Old Yellow Moon, which contained mainly covers, was represented with four songs, while The Traveling Kind, their latest album together and amazingly just their second such collaboration, got plenty of time with five songs in a row and it was well worth it. (Understandably, the band seemed to be most comfortable playing the more recent songs).

Harris shone on ‘Red Dirt Girl’ and ‘Luxury Liner’ and later in the encore that included ‘Old Yellow Moon,’ ‘Even Cowgirls Get The Blues’ and ‘Boulder To Birmingham’. If she has lost any of her vocal power and range it is certainly not evident.

Crowell took the spotlight on ‘Bring It On Home To Memphis,’ ‘I Ain’t Living Long Like This’ (which he recorded way back in 1978) and ‘Stars On The Water,’ from back in 1981, also proving that his voice has weathered time well.

And all of that is without a single song from Harris’s Wrecking Ball, celebrating its 20th anniversary, or Crowell’s own latest acclaimed solo album Tarpaper Sky. I guess expecting more would have been greedy.

As for the venue, while Harris was full of praise and the sound was excellent, one couldn’t help wishing that the show had been somewhere like The Forum where the audience could have been more involved. I can only dream about what this show would be like at the City Winery in Nashville (or The Ryman!). That is a minor gripe.

All in all, this inspired pairing offered an evening that demonstrated that real music and great songs still have a place. In years to come this show might just go down in legend as one of the greats of all time here.

Set List:

Return of the Grievous Angel  

Wheels

Pancho and Lefty  

‘Til I Gain Control Again

If I Needed You

Invitation to the Blues

Red Dirt Girl  

The Rock of My Soul

Love Hurts  

Luxury Liner

The Traveling Kind 


Bring It on Home to Memphis

You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try 


The Weight of the World

I Just Wanted to See You So Bad

Dreaming My Dreams With You 


Chase the Feeling

Back When We Were Beautiful

Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

Encore:


I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This

Old Yellow Moon

Stars On The Water

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Boulder To Birmingham

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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