Last Night: Billy Joe Shaver at the Armadillo Palace

Billy Joe Shaver
August 24, 2007
Goode’s Armadillo Palace

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Better Than: Screaming and shaking your fist at Goode’s giant armadillo in the middle of the night, for no immediately discernable reason and without an audience to justify that sort of behavior.

Download: "Tramp on Your Street," then go ride around some back roads in the bed of a pickup truck, drinking Natty Light and shooting at stop signs with your granddad’s .22.

Billy Joe Shaver seems to have no concept of aging gracefully. There’s something particularly unappetizing about a past his prime Texas legend spending his 68th year engaging in vaudevillian pandering, cringe worthy witticisms and acting as though he’s still the quintessential 30-year-old good ol’ boy.

But it’s important to remember that Shaver, regardless of your or my feelings on the matter, accepted the "outlaw" brand a long time ago, and the function of an outlaw is to maintain their outlaw hood until the clock runs out. Like Shaver himself said Friday night, "If you’re out there havin’ fun, well, have a lot of it, ‘cause it’s later than you think."

Photos by Lauren Cohen

The Armadillo Palace was packed, and the folks standing down front were indeed having plenty of fun. The dance floor filled for every ballad, while the back half of the bar and the rest of the room never really seemed to notice that they were at a live musical performance.

When Shaver slid into an a cappella version of "Star in My Heart" – a tribute to his late son and longtime guitarist Eddy – it became clear how much of the room simply didn’t give a damn

These people obviously had the $12 to burn, though, so who am I to judge? I was personally less concerned with the effect on Shaver’s ego than with people like the young couple standing in front of me, who had driven all the way from New Orleans to see their sixth Shaver show and sang along to every song except the new ones. Shaver’s first all gospel album, Everybody’s Brother, hits shelves next month, and its "Get Thee Behind Me Satan" and "When I Get My Wings" were among the new tunes rolled out Friday.

For less than devoted fans, the gig had a star in lead guitarist Jeremy Woodall whose nasty Telecaster growl pushed the gritty numbers up to snuff. While the rest of the band was solid, if uninterested, Woodall rocked like a flame throwing honky tonk hero, and it never got better than "When the Word Was Thunderbird" or world class shit kicker "The Hottest Thing in Town."

It’s not easy to overcome Shaver’s particular brand of showmanship, or the aforementioned challenges of standing between a quietly observant crowd and a bunch of people who were just happy to be holding beer. And say what you want about the man, but Shaver is not lacking in energy. He kept up his act for the entire two hour set and does so in cities around the nation.

However, like Dylan, Willie, the Stones and most anyone else who’s spent more than two decades playing music professionally, Billy Joe Shaver draws a crowd because he’s Billy Joe Shaver. Not many people go to see his new songs, but those who go for the old ones seem to have a great time, every time. – Chris Henderson

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I grew up in a trailer.

Random Detail: Nothing illustrates country music’s beautiful contradictions like watching a dashing vulture in a white Stetson two step his way into a young lady’s bed while someone sings, “don’t worry about a thing, Jesus Christ is still the King."

By the Way: Jeremy Woodall also slings the guit fiddle for 12 year honky-tonk vets Diamondback TX, whose song "Cool Guitar" features the following lyrics: "Well my baby kicked me out because I drink too much. She offered me her car so I could move my stuff. I’m gonna sell the bitch’s car, and buy myself a cool guitar." Yee fucking haw.

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