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Alejandro Escovedo, The Borderline, London, June 22nd 2010

July 4, 2010

One significant gap in my Americana-rock-alt-blah-blah gig-going has been Alejandro Escovedo. I’m convinced his agent waits until I’m on holiday or elsewhere before booking Al into a London venue. Paranoia aside, I like Alejandro’s music and possibly even more so in recent years – to my ears, there’s a solid and unique strain of punk-acoustic-Mex-country-rock thing going on that he’s almost perfected. His good buddy Chuck Prophet has taken a similar route, although Chuck’s influences and styles are somewhat broader overall.

For the uninitiated, Al was raised in California by Mexican immigrant parents in what is clearly a musical family, including cousin Sheila E. Al was first attracted to hard rock but joined punk band The Nuns, whose claim to fame was that they supported the Sex Pistols at their last ever gig at the Winterland in San Francisco.

Parky and I took up a nice spot near the front in the sold-out Borderline as Al and the Sensitive Boys took the stage for a rip-roaring Always A Friend, the song he co-wrote with Chuck and which was picked up by The Boss in his live shows. This was the first of five songs tonight from 2008’s Real Animal album that he co-wrote and performed with Chuck, and all the tunes pack a punch.

All this talk of punk, punch and rock might be misleading, as there’s a quieter side to Al’s music that’s never overshadowed by the loud and heavy stuff. He’s a fine songwriter and it was good to hear a bunch of songs from his new album Street Songs Of Love, including a nice threesome straight after the show’s opener – This Bed Is Getting Crowded, Anchor (the current single) and Tender Heart. Even when they’re playing acoustics, Al and talented sideman David Pulkingham trade blistering guitar between each other, even on the ‘love songs’.

Al dedicated the album to his first record producer, Stephen Bruton, the Austin music wizard who sadly died last year. His last two albums have been produced by the legendary Tony Visconti, which is appropriate given Al’s abiding love of 70s music, and sure enough we were treated to some fine covers tonight, including All The Young Dudes (Ian Hunter guests on the new album) and a massive I Wanna Be Your Dog.

There were only a handful of Al’s songs that weren’t from the last two albums, including  Everybody Loves Me, from 1999’s Bourbonitis Blues, and Castanets, the song that George W Bush had on his iPod. Al said he ‘wasn’t proud of that’ and indeed for a while he stopped playing this standard, but relented after a couple of years, especially now that Dubya has thankfully become an ex-President.

It was a great evening of heavier and lighter rock, played with passion, fun and a huge dollop of real talent. I just hope I don’t have to wait a lifetime to see him again. Here are Al and David performing the new single for Rolling Stone:

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