Hometown heroes Colonel Ford and Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three brought that old-timey feeling via a show that spanned over 80 years of music -- connecting the past, the present and the future.
Opener Colonel Ford took stage studded in cowboy boots and blue jeans and provided the excited crowd with an hour's worth of well-done, clean-cut country music. Armed with two guitars, an upright bass and drums, the band delivered a fine mixture of covers and originals. These country connoisseurs sifted their way through timeless tunes done by the likes of Buck Owens and Charlie Feathers and gave all in attendance an especially beautiful four minutes with a cover of the great country standard, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke."
Throughout the hour the band sent the crowd swaying and foot tapping into a sense of longing nostalgia that turned the venue into a hazy, smoke-filled honky tonk somewhere down in Texas. Colonel Ford came in and did what all great openers do -- play great music and warm the crowd for the night's main event. Their Hank Williams-era songs with a honky-tonk approach proved to be just what Off Broadway needed to start the night off right.
Between the break a feeling of restlessness and excitement began to move throughout the sold-out crowd. The venue became a collection of sounds: glasses clanked in the back, George Jones played over the speakers and countless murmurs and chatter dedicated to the iconic young men set to take stage any moment.
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three walked coolly on stage to the soundtrack of screams and cheers that only a hometown crowd could offer. After a quick soundcheck and introduction, Pokey and the boys got down to business, starting their set with a Fred Rose dance number entitled, "The Devil Ain't Lazy."
Once the initial feet were tapped and the fingers snapped, Pokey and the gang continued with an ode to their travels. "One Town at a Time," along with nearly every other song, featured brilliant trade-offs between guitarist Adam Hoskins and harmonica player Ryan Koenig. Fueled by complimentary Stag and whiskey, Pokey and the SC3 cruised effortlessly through the next few tracks. Crowd members sang along and danced merrily to the familiar tunes until Pokey introduced St. Louis to a new one called "Gettin' by on Central Time" -- and my, was it a pleasant surprise. The tune showed off Pokey's versatility as a songwriter and had more of a '60s R&B feel to it.
Pokey and the gang took a moment to pause before jumping into the next tune, admiring the lively St. Louis crowd and discussing the greatness of this city. "You seriously don't get this anywhere else," Ryan remarked endearingly during the pause. The crowd responded with heartfelt whoops and cheers and enough energy to put the Energizer bunny to shame.
Following the break, longtime favorites "Pack it Up" and "Claude Jones" flowed with life and enthusiasm. The next three songs featured the clarinet and a strong New Orleans gypsy feel, similar to what evolve from a jam between Django Reinhardt and Sidney Bechet.
Playing a nearly flawless show, Pokey and the Three kept the crowd in a dancing frenzy the entire night. More favorites off of "Riverboat Soul" and "Middle of Everywhere" settled nicely with the crowd like a fine whiskey getting better with time. Another new song, "Won't You Please Don't Do It," again had a slightly different feel than the Pokey we're used to -- but it's still a fine tune based in tradition and roots like his others.
After the sing-along hit "La La Blues" the three-song encore treated fans to an incredible conclusion to the night. Joining Pokey and the South City Three were the clarinet player from earlier and all of the members of Colonel Ford. Two basses, four guitars, drums, harmonica, and a clarinet all came together to put a magical ending to the magical night.
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three set list:
Devil Ain't Lazy
One Town at a Time
Ain't the Same
Pack It Up
When My Baby Comes to Town
Close the Door
Sweet Potato Blues
Drinkin' Whiskey Tonight
Please Don't Do It
La La Blues
Peach-Pickin' Time Down in Georgia
Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)
Mama Don't Allow