The immortal words of Country Dick Montana ring true at Steve Earle’s Vancouver show

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 17, 2000

Some types of music are just made for drinkin’ to, and Steve Earle’s brand of down-home roots rock is one of them. And we’re not talking plain old boring beer, either. When it comes to liquid accompaniment for a Steve Earle concert, it’s easy to agree with the legendary Country Dick Montana’s sharp-eyed assessment that “Beer ain’t drinkin’!”

No, something along the lines of Jack Daniel’s and Coke is required to fully appreciate the blue-collar homilies of “Copperhead Road” and “The Rain Came Down”. So for about four hours at the Commodore last Friday (August 11) I drenched myself in Kentucky bourbon and pop, and though my wallet was picked clean by the end of it, I’ve got to say that Montana’s immortal words rang true.

Also, it was one of the best Commodore shows I’ve seen in my life.

After a solo opening set by Earle’s son Justin—which included material by Townes Van Zant and the old Stones-covered blues tune “Stop Breakin’ Down”—Steve-O took the stage with his killer band the Dukes and proceeded to unleash a string of sparkling gems from his 15-year recording career. His repertoire included everything from the gentle “My Old Friend the Blues” to the balls-to-the-walls “New York City”. When it came time for “Copperhead Road”, Earle’s rough-hewn hit about pot-growing Vietnam vets, the Commodore’s considerate bouncers announced the selection to the penned-in smoking section down on Granville Street.

They say there’s an idiot in every crowd. Or is it an asshole? At any rate, this crowd’s idiot asshole was standing directly in front of our table, arm around his girl, shouting things like “Astros suck!” while the Texas troubadour was trying to tell a story about the first time he saw ZZ Top play in Houston. The belligerent bozo kept on razzing Earle until the rocker stared him down and made a comment about who the heckler’s woman was paying more attention to at that moment. She sat down, embarrassed, and after a while Brainless started acting like a semihuman. I was this close to telling him to shut up and try some JD and Coke.

Even the nauseating antics of His Idiocy couldn’t tarnish the effect of Earle’s spotless set, though. “This part of the show is called ‘songs we dig’,” he announced during a two-part encore that included choice tunes by the Bottle Rockets, the Beatles, the Stones, and the Chambers Brothers. His tumultuous version of the latter’s “Time Has Come Today” lifted the gig into the realm of unforgettable, and that ain’t just the Jack talkin’.

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