J.D. McPherson, Nikki Lane
October 21, 2017
Saturday night was a big night for Houston, from early Halloween celebrations and other concerts to watching the Astros play Game 7 of the ACLS in bars and living rooms all over the city, if not inside Minute Maid Park itself. One option for a lucky 300 people was the highly anticipated and sold-out Nikki Lane/J.D. McPherson show at the Continental Club.
The buzz had been slowly growing around this show since it was announced several months back and only got bigger once anticipation for McPherson's latest record, Undivided Heart and Soul, starting building. The album landed at No. 1 on the Americana Music Association's radio chart back in September, despite not being released for another month; it's now maintained its position at the top for several weeks. At McPherson's Cactus Music in-store earlier in the day, chatter among the crowd had already turned to anxiety about the show being sold out with only a limited amount of tickets being released at the door.
McPherson and Lane are not only labelmates but have been touring together all month, from Washington to California and ending their run together Saturday night in Houston. Together they made for a perfect evening inside the Continental Club, full of both artists' own authentic vintage vibes.
Competing for attention with the viewing of the Astros on the verge of the team's first World Series in 12 years is no easy feat, but Nikki Lane is not one to back down to competition. She and her band, The Tennessee Dirtbags (a playful take on the Texas Gentlemen), took the stage as the Astros were still heavy into their big game. “What’s going on over there, are yall fucking winning? Houston needs a pick me up; let's go to the fucking World Series!” Lane shouted to the audience in her country twang between songs at the beginning of her hour-long set.
Lane’s songs and stage presence clearly resonated with many, especially the female audience members who had pushed their way to the front of the stage. Her songs of love lost and found, wanderlust and marriages dissolved into memories clearly struck a chord with many as hoots, hollers and tears at times filled the room. More than one lady in the bunch could lend a scream or clap to Lane’s description of her song “Man Up," which, as she said, is “about kicking my ex-husband outta my house — best thing I’ve ever done.”
By the time Lane and her Dirtbags left the stage to go sign merchandise in the back and take a well deserved break, the Astros were winning in the top of ninth inning and the packed house was ready to celebrate and rock and roll with J.D. McPherson. McPherson and his band took the stage and immediately filled the room with old-school rock and roll power chords as more of the men in the audience began to push forward.
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There’s only one word for the energy McPherson and his bandmates put out onstage: fun. These five men oozed a good-time vibe complete with sweat, encouraging audience participation, perfectly timed soul claps and unexpected harmonies. You could tell the crowded house wanted to cut loose, but there just wasn’t enough room for more than a few brave swing dancers.
All of McPherson’s bandmates played multiple instruments and showed off a diverse playing style, switching from garage/surf-rock sounds to sweeter ballads. The band members on tour are the same musicians featured on his current album. They gave a shout-out to an obvious influence, Link Wray and encouraged the audience to go online and help to vote him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s not everyday that younger artists, or anyone for that matter, mention someone as influential but often overlooked as the man who wrote 1958's "Rumble."
The band ended their fireball of a set with their feel-good hit, “North Side Gal,” and all butts were shakin’ by then. McPherson and his band took a genuinely happy bow and left the stage but the Continental crowd was still alive and bursting with zest from the good tunes and good news that the Astros will play on into the World Series.
As soon as the show ended a DJ spun records to the still-celebrating crowd in the club's spacious backyard. With all that space, good tunes and good news, people danced the night away hours after the live show had ended.