January 29, 2011

Concert #62 - John Wesley Harding at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 7, 1990)

At the time of this writing, I have seen 264 shows at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. But on June 7, 1990, the McCabe's count stood at zero. I had seen their ads in the Calendar section of the LA Times, but until John Wesley Harding's gig there, I had not visited the place.
I was first introduced to John Wesley Harding's music in early 1990, while checking things out at Rhino Records in Claremont - my ears caught a song that had all the right ingredients. The store clerk gave me the details I needed - the song was "Here Comes The Groom", the artist John Wesley Harding. I bought the album, which instantly became a huge favorite of mine. A few weeks later I found a live recording of his, a British import that later was released in the US as "It Happened One Night". So when I saw the gig announcement, I did not hesitate and drove out to Santa Monica straight from work.

I got there early, just before 6 PM. I walked in and found myself in a store. With a puzzled look on my face, I asked "Where's the concert gonna be"? They told me "In the backroom, you may check it out now". So I entered the backroom and I froze: John Wesley Harding was just starting his sound check. I stood there listening to "Cathy's New Clown" and bits and pieces of other songs. I said to myself "I like this place".

For the show proper, I sat in the second row, only the second time in my concert-going career that I was so close to a performer. JWH played all my favorite songs from "Here Comes The Groom", except for "The Devil In Me". He was humorous, intelligent, played the guitar with ferocity at times and delivered great song after great song.

Even though he was a relative newcomer to the LA singer-songwriter scene, John Wesley Harding had two unannounced guests: Dave Alvin and John Easdale, of Dramarama fame. John and JWH duetted on "Last Cigarette", Dramarama's 1989 hit. Years later, Dave Alvin would become one of my all-time favorite musicians.

I was in total awe of JWH's performance and it all happened right there in front of my eyes. When the show was over, the guy sitting next to me summarized the concert as "as good as it gets", and he was right.

Here's John Wesley Harding in 1990. Go to the 3:25 mark to hear "Here Comes The Groom": 



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