Shelby Lynne May 18, 2008 Warehouse Live
Better Than: Any show in Vegas right now
Download: This, for starters
I’ve been around enough to know ringers when I see them, and the four men clad in matching black who walked out at Warehouse Live to set the stage for Shelby Lynne’s entrance were certainly pros of the highest magnitude. I immediately recognized drummer Brian Owings, the guy who played on “Third Rate Romance” and who works regularly with Buddy Miller; but the real ringer was John “JJ” Jackson, who played two years with Bob Dylan and has also played with Lucinda Williams. They laid down a warm, slow jazz intro for Ms. Lynne to float in on like a fairy with attitude.
The talk had been whether Lynne would attempt to replicate her new album of Dusty Springfield covers, Just A Little Lovin’. Recorded without ProTools virtually live, the album is filled with smoldering subtlety and lots of pregnant space, and hardly seems concert friendly, particularly for a venue like the small room at Warehouse Live. Well, Lynne wasted no time making believers out of a worshipful crowd, beginning the show with “Just A Little Lovin’” and “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” the first two tracks on the album. No one had to shush this crowd as they hung on every note delivered by Lynne’s powerful instrument. This woman can sing, and she digs deep inside the songs and places herself squarely in the drama.
She segued into Springfield’s hit “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” and from there on the crowd was entirely hers. After “Breakfast In Bed” Lynne abruptly segued from lush lounge torch song mode into some nasty swampwater voodoo, letting her band of bad boys loose on Tony Joe White’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones.” The place was suddenly rockin’. Lost in a bubbling sea of swamp, Jackson took an extended solo that served notice that these guys could out-North-Mississippi-Allstars the North Mississippi Allstars anytime they felt like it. It was the best cover of a Tony Joe White song I’ve ever heard live. Lynne should definitely consider cutting an album of Tony Joe covers. She gets it like no one else.
Picking up her Telecaster, Lynne told one of the few stories of the night, about writing “Telephone” from her Identity Crisis album “after drinking 14 margaritas,” a drinking/writing session that yielded the line “I never really thought you would answer, Now it's a big blown up thing, I wish you hadn't been at home when the telephone rang.” She followed with “Dream Some” from the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary, which featured keyboardist/man-of-many-talents Randy Leago, a Houston native, on flute.
The crowd screamed when they recognized “Temptation,” and things got pretty hot after that, hot enough the band took their coats off and Jackson hit those big, sexy Gibson hollow-body notes that said turn the lights down, take your clothes off, and feed me bon-bons. “Did You Miss Me” worshipped at the Motown-Stax altar but moved the idiom two light years ahead at the same time to some church where Al Green shouts the gospel and love, physical love, is the answer to everything that ails. There probably wasn’t a dry pair of underwear in the house when Lynne finished. Barry White, eat your heart out. Lynne responded to rousing applause by proclaiming she loved everyone for the love they’d shown “this boney-ass white girl.”
The great lines continued to roll past: “He told me some stories, I told him some lies;” “I told him I’m not a sinner, he told me I’m not here to change you anyway.” The knowledgeable crowd just couldn’t get enough of it, and hung on her every note and gesture until the wiafish Mississippian vanished into the night, leaving an audience convinced and wanting more.
Personal Bias: Why isn’t there any St. Arnold’s at the bar?
Random Detail: Easily the most professional show I’ve seen in a while. Ms. Lynne does a concert like it was a play.
By the way: Get this act to Vegas, woman. The money will come rolling in. And Vegas needs a shot of something this legit. – William Michael Smith