Emmylou Harris, John Prine @ Red Rocks - Reverb - Reverb

Emmylou Harris, John Prine @ Red Rocks

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Emmylou Harris mixed covers and new songs at Red Rocks on Friday.

Reverb contributor John Ealy checks in with this review of Friday’s show.

A songbird and a sage shared the stage Friday night when singer/songwriter legends Emmylou Harris and John Prine played a near-capacity show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Harris opened, but the two would wander onto each other’s stage for several songs throughout the night, lending a convivial and egalitarian spirit to the evening. Each dressed in black, Harris on guitar and Prine backing her up, or Prine on guitar and Harris backing him up, this was an act of symmetry.

Harris came out strong, opening with “Here I Am.” That angelic voice reverberated off the towering red sandstone, floated on the wings of her five-piece band, the lyrics alighting on a thousand fans’ tongues as they joined in on the chorus. Earl Montgomery’s “One of These Days” followed, as did covers (Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”; the Louvin brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love”) and tunes from her new album, “All I Intended To Be,” which will be released Tuesday.

While lovely, Harris’ voice sounded a bit breathy in several passages, and her enunciation at times was difficult to understand, a result perhaps of the altitude or a faint breeze toward the end of her set. But her phrasing was impeccable, and she moved about the stage with the same grace as she sings. Harris obviously was having a good time: When the crowd responded warmly to songs from “All I Intended To Be” (“Sailing Around the Room” and Jude Johnstone’s “Hold On”), she apologized “for doing too much new.” She closed with a spirited take of Bill Monroe’s classic “Get Up John.”

With only a bass player and guitarist as backup, Prine blew onto the stage as the crowd thundered approval, opening with “Spanish Pipe Dream.” Nearly everybody seemed to be trying to find Jesus as they sang along on the refrain. Showcasing his wonderful wit and poetic insights, Prine was in command from the beginning.

The minimalist set put out a big sound. Switching between upright and electric bass, Dave Jacques laid down a smooth and consistent line. And guitarist Jason Wilber proved versatile, coaxing a heartfelt slide as easily as a big blues sound from his black Telecaster but never upstaging Prine. His slide work on “Storm Windows” was a highlight of the night. Prine paid tribute, as he always does, to his good friend, mentor and writer of “City of New Orleans” Steve Goodman on “Souvenirs,” whose memorable line could have come from Prine’s pen: “Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see.”

Prine covered a lot of territory but particularly stood out on “Hello in There,” “I Had a Dream” and “Six O’clock News.” He closed with “Lake Marie” but was enticed back for an encore to play “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore.” From the man who wrote such pithy lines as “We were regular Dr. Jekyll, but together we were Mr. and Mrs. Hyde,” came a show in which, with opening act Harris, was a perfect marriage for longtime fans on a perfect evening on the Rocks.

John Ealy is a copy editor and designer for The Denver Post.

Categories: REVERB
  • Clay Eals

    John:

    Thanks for the great Emmylou Harris/John Prine review, with its passing mention of Steve Goodman. He often doesn’t get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, “Steve Goodman: Facing the Music.” The book delves deeply into the professional and personal relationship between Goodman and Prine, and both Prine and Emmylou are key interviewees among my more than 1,050 sources. The book also contains photos of Goodman performing at Red Rocks in 1983.

    A quick clarification: “Souvenirs” is solely a Prine song. People often think Goodman wrote or co-wrote it because Prine and Goodman dueted on it so effectively. Though Prine wrote the song in 1970 before he met Steve, it perfectly describes their friendship.

    You can find out more at my Internet site (below). Amazingly, the book’s first printing sold out in just eight months, all 5,000 copies, and a second printing of 5,000 is available now. The second printing includes hundreds of little updates and additions, including 30 more photos for a total of 575. It just won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography.

    If it’s possible you would be able to review or otherwise write about the Goodman bio, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to get you a media copy.

    Again, great review. Made me feel like I was there.

    Clay Eals
    1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
    Seattle, WA 98116-1958

    (206) 935-7515
    (206) 484-8008
    ceals@comcast.net
    http://www.clayeals.com

  • John Ealy

    My bad, Mr. Eals. Thanks for fixing that for the record. And congrats on the IPPY award for “Steve Goodman: Facing the Music.”

  • Dan

    Emmylou Harris did NOT play Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale at her Red Rocks show, nor to my knowledge has she ever covered it. I was mystified about how you could make such an error until realizing that the song Broken Man’s Lament, by Mark Germino, from Emmy’s new CD, includes the whiter shade line. That song WAS played at Red Rocks.

    — Emmy fan Dan

  • JDietz

    JP has been my man for over 40 years and like wine gets better with age.

    They need to name a beer after him.

    JD San Rafael, CA

  • Bleacher Bum

    Clay Eals book is essential reading for any Steve or John fan..especially for those of us that go back to the Earl of Old Town days

  • kevin

    My gosh, I wish I could have been there with my gal of almost 2 years, Donna. When we met, she “didn’t like country…” Our second date was an Emmy Lou performance at “The Egg” in NY capital Albany. She soon made me copies of the ElH alums she got right after. t

    This spring we saw JP with Dave J and Jason W in the wonderful Troy Music Hall. Jason opened (we met him afterwards ). Both more intimate settings than the Rocks, but I’m sure Emmy Lou & John brought all together,

    k

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