January 24, 2016

Concert #768 - Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 23, 2016)

This was only my second time to see Dave and Phil Alvin perform together. Two years ago, at the Claremont Folk Festival, they impressed me with a strong performance, yet last night at McCabe's they did even better. "Absolutely superb" were the first words that came out of my mouth at the end of the concert and I wasn't exaggerating. It is harder for me to assess Phil, who has mostly eluded me over the years, but I can state with confidence that Dave is one of those few top-tier musicians who just get better with age.

Dave & Phil Alvin at McCabe's
The evening started with a seven-song set performed by Dave, with support from Chris Miller, his long-time collaborator and frequent member of the Guilty Men. Chris's electric guitar complemented Dave's acoustic playing to perfection. As musicians often do, Dave took a small detour from his hand-written set list, so instead of "King Of California" we heard "California Snow", a powerful song he wrote two decades ago with Tom Russell. The evening's first set ended with a great rendition of the self-penned "Abilene", whose extended instrumental coda featured some amazing interplay between Dave and Chris.

Dave Alvin's first set
Phil Alvin joined Dave and Chris for the evening's second set and what a set that was! Drawing heavily from the repertoire of some of America's finest classic blues artists, the Alvin Brothers put on a stunning display of singing and guitar playing, with Chris Miller providing outstanding support. Phil may have looked a bit frail, but his vocals showed no signs of weakness whatsoever, not even when he did the yodelling part on Jimmie Rodgers' "Never No Mo' Blues".

Dave & Phil Alvin at McCabe's
Dave Alvin at McCabe's
Phil Alvin at McCabe's
Everything we heard last night sounded great, yet a few songs still managed to stand out: Big Bill Broonzy's "All By Myself", Big Joe Turner's "Cherry Red Blues', Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey's "If You See My Savior" and the unattributed "World's In A Bad Condition". The show ending "What's Up With Your Brother", with its super-epic electric guitar playing delivered by Dave and Chris, will be hard to forget. The crowd brought them back for an encore, which consisted of "Johnny Ace Is Dead" and a rousing rendition of "Marie, Marie". We all went home happy.

Dave & Phil's set list

Chris Miller at McCabe's
The stage

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