From the way he looked and sounded at times, it seemed Carll had scored a touchdown or two himself on St. Patrick's Day.
Presented by PNC Arts Alive and 88.1 KDHX, the Sheldon Concert Hall welcomed the Texas singer-songwriter and his band. Carll took the stage just before 9 p.m. alone with his acoustic guitar to begin a 100-minute show of his outstanding original country and folk material.
Even though the stage was set up for a full band, Carll advised that he was starting out solo to pace himself throughout the evening. "Live Free or Die," a funny song about prisoners stamping license plates in New Hampshire from his first album "Flowers and Liquor," was quickly followed by the melancholy "Grateful for Christmas." This statement prefaced the rest of the show as he drank a lot of water and the vocals stayed slightly buried in the mix. Though, as a consummate performer, Carll powered through any difficulty he may have been experiencing to put on a solid performance.
When the band took the stage for "Hard out Here" from his latest record, "KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)," the venue transformed from a quiet folk club to full on country honky tonk. The only things missing to make the transformation of the venerable hall complete were a bar in the back and some neon beer signs hanging on the walls. Carll proceeded to chide guitar player Scott Davis and bass player Cody Phillips on their matching shirts dubbing them the "Gingham Twins," a reference to the "Glimmer Twins" moniker of Rolling Stones' leaders Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
A two-fer from his 2008 break out record "Trouble in Mind" followed in the form of a couple of mid-tempo numbers, "It's A Shame" and "Beaumont." However, the former lacked the harmonies and Carll seemed to struggle to hit some notes. Outwardly, the audience ignored any negatives as the music remained strong and well-executed all evening.
As he called audibles throughout the set, Carll told humorous stories as his backing band moved about switching up instruments and tuning. Before the Texas shuffle of "Good Friends," he told the story of his high school band, Southern Comfort, agreeing to all get tattoos to signify their bond. Still, he lamented the fact that only their "accountant" ended up getting the tattoo due to the length of the process and the eventual demise of the band. After the tune got started, Davis and multi-instrumentalist Travis Linville traded blazing solos on guitar and dobro respectively.
Next, Carll reached back for the title track of his second album, "Little Rock," a country rocker with a Chuck Berry style beat. Staying unpredictable and keeping the pace from getting out of hand, he moved back to more mellow material with "Bye Bye Baby" and "The Letter."
With each passing album Carll's songwriting continues to improve. To emphasize his strength the set included a new song, "One Bed Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine," a song that Carll prefaced was about "every man's fantasy." Like any typical fantasy, the reality of the situation does not live up to the expectations. The song, though technically new because it hasn't been properly released, has floated around his live shows for the better part of a year and will likely make it onto his next record.
Towards the end of the set, Carll had an "unceremonious firing of the band" when he gave them a break and ushered them off stage. Further, he stated that he "needed some alone time," Carll mentioned that the next song was, "One of the first songs I wrote and one of the longest" and he launched into the rare "Easy Come Easy Go" from his first album. The solo portion continued and the crowd, in a juiced up during the performance as cat calls were shouted toward the stage for songs and after various remarks, began to get more needy. Playing the role of even tempered musician, Carll seemed to take the fervent fans mostly in stride accepting their demanded requests. The beauty of the Sheldon is that it doesn't take much volume to be heard, but this can backfire if the crowd gets a bit rowdy. Near the end of the set in fact, Carll finally acquiesced to one rowdy audience member who kept shouting for "Another like You."
He ended the main set where he began. Carll gave the audience the sweet, heartfelt folk of "A Long Way Home" before leaving to rapt applause. After a short discussion backstage, the musicians entered again for a two song encore that began with "Wild as a Turkey." Finally, giving it all they had to end the evening on a high note, the Carll and his band played a raucous version of "Stomp and Holler." The loud applause washed over the stage as the band, grateful for the enthusiastic crowd, exited the stage through the rear doors. Carll attained a success for the evening. Another show, though not technically perfect, was in the books and the fans left happy -- a victory indeed.
Hayes Carll set list
Live Free or Die
Grateful for Christmas
Hard Out Here
It's a Shame
Bye Bye Baby
One Bed Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine
I Don't Wanna Grow Up
Drunken Poet's Dream
Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
Bottle in my Hand
Easy Come and Easy Go
Another Like You
A Long Way Home
Wild as a Turkey
Stomp and Holler