The Palace Theatre is a great intimate venue. I last saw Joe at this venue two years ago (10/11/2008) and that show was a fantastic, rollicking, high-energy hit parade, which maybe set me up for a little disappointment with last night's show.
Highlights for me last night included: Hordes of Locusts, Crystal Planet, Littleworth Lane (great changeup) and Why. Joe is clearly still, and always, a virtuoso player. I really, really missed Stu Hamm, though. I haven't been following the news, so I don't know why he was replaced, but his absence was very much felt. The new fella was definitely trying to do some of the crowd engagement duties, but he seemed to lack the chemistry that Stu had with Joe when I last saw them.
I didn't have the heart to tell the very excited old dude behind me that the encore he was assuring me was SWTA was actually Summer Song, but that's fine for him. I, instead, walked away empty handed longing for a SWTA. And honestly, I'd rather be empty handed than see it get the treatment that Summer Song got. But I place a lot of the blame on the catatonic audience for that.
I think there were a lot of things conspiring against this show; The weather and roads were awful, for one. Opener Ned Evett shared that their last gig was in Florida and it was 75 and it was 20 and snowing here. As I said, the audience was sleepy. The Steelers had a late Sunday night game the night before, so I suspect that many of the members of the audience had been up late the night before, and you know, it was a Monday night show. What can ya do?
The other thing I wanted to mention was that I was interested to see Joe's new 24 fret JS guitars. There seemed to be a white one and an orange one. Then later in the show he was playing a red guitar that appeared to be a 22-fret JS, and I felt the tone was NOTICEABLY better on the red one vs. the orange and white ones. I know he's gotta pimp that new guitar, but something's not quite worked out, at least from where I was sitting. I'm always hoping to see an appearance by one of the gimmick axes too, but no chromeboys or acrylics last night.
Overall, Joe's a fantastic player, and on his worst night, I'd still be loving it. Here's hoping he brings back Stu, and some of the energy he brought last time he came through town.