As we enter the second-to-last month of what was been an alternately amazing and confounding year for music, Aftermath has been thinking a lot about recurring themes we have encountered over the past twelve months. Seeing a rock and roll show every other night isn't always some sort magical boozical tour, because the sad part of it is that you start getting complacent - or worse, you become super-hard to impress. You also pick up vibes from crowd to crowd that most folks don't get to chart. Remember our Kings of Leon review a few weeks back? Aftermath has seen Memphis' Lucero at least four times this year, including two nights ago at Fun Fun Fun Fest and the brief layover in the sweatbox that was Walter's back in June. Onstage, the band had always been less a musical force than an excellent backdrop for lead singer and guitarist Ben Nichols' cinematic storytelling. With the addition of a three-piece horn section, both live and on new album 1372 Overton Park, the music has finally caught up with Nichols' widescreen lyrics. Also, seeing the band reasonably sober (at least to Aftermath's standards) helped our reasoning and comprehension of what we were seeing.
Opening with the horn trio on full blast for 1372's "Sounds of the City," Lucero seemed to take flight into this massive version of their home template. Drummer Roy Berry sat back and beat the demons out of his kit like a Muscle Shoals Swamper, as the rest of the band led each song down a tight line. "Last Night In Town," from 2005's Nobody's Darlings, has now turned into the band's own "Born To Run," with Nichols birthing an intermittent Springsteen-style hip swivel.
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The band couldn't have picked a better batch of older songs to get the newfangled horn-section treatment, with "That Much Further West" and "Nights Like These" getting a new brass lacquer. Previously, Lucero songs had a junky charm, but now they sound like huge iron plates of soul. Even the band's signature cover of Jawbreaker's "Kiss The Bottle" started to sound like Otis Redding. The band ran through the sad-sack Bill Withers classic "Ain't No Sunshine" with Nichols back in his usual gruff nicotine-breathed drawl, if only for a few minutes. The show was supposed to be a full two-hour affair, but a few kids from the band's new, younger demographic, i.e., "douchebag children who turn into SuperBrah after one Miller Lite, and think they can treat bassist John Stubblefield like an asshole," got into a tussle with the musician and Meridian's stage manager cut the show off at 1 a.m. Aftermath has seen this band countless times, and has never heard of someone arguing with them - let alone fighting them. Usually there is a line of free whiskey shots mainlined right to the monitors that coated the crowd with bittersweet happiness and unity.
That's what we meant by watching things evolve in the first paragraph. It sucks to follow a band for so long, only to watch new fans come around and destroy something.
For more photos from the show, check out our slideshow.