Live review: John Prine @ the Paramount TheatreBy John Hendrickson and Nathan Armes | March 29th, 2011 | 3 comments
John Prine graced the Paramount Theatre stage on Saturday night following a glowing introduction by veteran promoter Chuck Morris, president of AEG Live Rocky Mountains. “I first booked John in 1971,” Morris told the crowd, adding that Prine remains one of his favorite live performers after more than three decades in the industry.
Prine commanded the stage from that first moment — receiving that sort of elder-statesman respect reserved for so few these days. (Dylan gets it, Neil Young gets it, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, and that’s about it.) Adorned in his usual jet black suit with an ear-to-ear grin, Prine played for nearly two hours on Saturday, scratching all the right corners of his extensive catalog.
Sure, there were welcomed audience sing-a-longs atop hits like “Spanish Pipedream,” “Dear Abby” and “Souvenirs,” but the evening was largely rife with tender moments where the packed room sat silent, happy just to hear Prine tell his stories.
Towards the middle of the show, he recounted a family road trip from his childhood — his father up late the night before studying the atlas while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, mapping a circuitous route with no apparent destination. He described the flat, two-lane roads of Illinois, swerving past long-haul truckers, then sang a lighthearted version of “Bottomless Lake.”
It was in stark contrast to the darker moments found in ballads like “Six o’clock news” and “Sam Stone,” the latter a tale of a Vietnam-vet-turned-junkie. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm, where all the money goes,” Prine gargled. His voice hasn’t been the same since his bout with squamous cell carcinoma — a form of cancer that resulted in the removal of part of his neck — in the late ’90s. Prine has a visible scar and will only allow photographers to shoot from one side of the stage out of residual self-conciousness. It’s the fundamental human aspect of a singer whose songs illustrate the strife of everyday humans.
Later in the set came a rousing “Lake Marie” — with its triumphant “woaahh-ahh-ohhh” chorus — and an electrified “Sweet Revenge.” During the encore, Prine brought out opener Sarah Jarosz to sit in on “Paradise” — harmonizing, trading verses and shredding mandolin at a level lightyears beyond her ripe age of 20. And still, after nearly every favorite had been heard, the audience hollered for more.