White Oak Music Hall
September 11, 2017
By most accounts, Ben Nichols is the same guy he’s always been.
Not 20 minutes before Lucero's headlining set at White Oak Music Hall, the group's front man was out back, smoking and chatting with fans as if it were any other night. And for him, it kind of was.
Lucero made a name for itself early in its career through exhaustive touring, so the band is no stranger to Houston and its boisterous crowds. The Bayou City itself doesn't get a lot of attention in Nichols's songs, but the state in which it resides sure does.
You’d be hard-pressed to listen to more than a song or two without hearing Texas mentioned fondly. Nichols's own brother moved to Austin years ago, inspiring the Memphis native to write "Raising Hell," one of the many fan favorites performed Tuesday night. He told the crowd he loves it here.
Breaking their set up into two halves – half with Nichols sporting an acoustic guitar, half with an electric – Lucero serenaded a small but enthusiastic crowd for nearly two hours, never relenting despite a dwindling crowd and way, way too much whiskey.
Pearl snaps, boots, cowboy hats and denim abounded. And did I mention whiskey? Because there was plenty of it.
Nichols wasn't even finished with his band's second song when someone in the crowd handed him a shot of the stuff. After gulping it down, Nichols coughed and chuckled, "It's gonna be a long night, huh?"
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The shots kept coming, and Nichols kept drinking. But instead of getting sloppy, he got silly. He didn't seem to be masking any of the pain that has inspired so many of his songs. Instead, the newly minted father was all smiles and kind words Tuesday evening, even remarking a number of times on Houston's resilience in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
He sang of whiskey and rodeos, friendships and heartbreak, good times and bad and missed opportunities. In years past, the front man seemed to plead for redemption as if it were an unattainable goal, but this go-round showcased a different Nichols.
Having a woman to love and a 14-month-old who loves him unconditionally, the Memphis native seems to have found a new lease on life. His positivity was downright palpable Tuesday night.
Near the end of “My Best Girl,” in which Nichols sang of his guitar being a better companion than any woman, he told the crowd, “I meant that when I wrote it, but now that I’ve got a wife, it seems kind of ridiculous.”
The band also performed a new song from their upcoming album, which they hope to release in early 2018. All the songs are done, Nichols said, but they still need some tweaking.
Near the end of the show, Nichols admitted he doesn’t know any lullabies to sing to his daughter. Instead, he said he likes to sing “Last Pale Light In the West” to her as she falls asleep. The story was haphazard and, citing the whiskey, Nichols never quite finished it, but it was heartwarming nonetheless.
Despite becoming a family man, Nichols remains a rock star at heart – obliging fans who bought him drinks over and over as they were lined up at the front of the stage throughout his band’s set.
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"This one's a mistake," Nichols said before downing his sixth or seventh shot of the evening, a gigantic smile plastered on his face, “but oh well.”
Texas & Tennessee
Last Night In Town
Union Pacific Line
Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles
Ain't So Lonely
My Best Girl
On My Way Downtown
Chain Link Fence
Nights Like These
Tears Don't Matter Much
To My Dearest Wife** (new song)
Hey Darlin' Do You Gamble
Kiss The Bottle
Last Pale Light In the West
Here At The Starlite
Drink Till We're Gone
Fistful Of Tears