Jamey Johnson Warehouse Live May 11, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, the feel-good show of the year.
Aftermath had never seen Jamey Johnson live before Wednesday, so we don't know if what happened is his usual modus operandi. Regardless, to see it in person was nothing short of remarkable.
For about half an hour, Johnson and his five-piece band fought a ham-fisted sound mix and typically distracted Houston crowd, who kept their conversation to a dull roar when they weren't voicing their approval of the cocaine, whores and marijuana plants in Johnson's lyrics. Other than that, he wasn't doing them any favors with his material.
Intermittently audible and each paced a notch or two above a crawl, there was an ex-con's realization of how little he's gained upon his release ("The High Cost of Living"); Willie Nelson's epic after-hours sigh ("Night Life"); a pot grower's account of grinding poverty ("Can't Cash My Checks"); and Merle Haggard's dream of a better, or at least different, life ("The Way I Am").
Then came another Willie song, a lovelorn request to the tune of "Red River Valley" ("Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight"); a songwriter piecing together a blackout from the cab of his pickup truck ("That Lonesome Song"); and a stark warning to the well-to-do to watch their backs ("Poor Man Blues"). "Lonesome Song" raised the tempo and the volume at the chorus, sparking a few "whoo"s, but otherwise each song dug an existential grave for the evening six feet deeper.
A minute or two into "Poor Man," it looked like they had finally reached the precipice. The song stopped abruptly, there was a split-second of hesitation, and then the band commenced Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It." Presto.