LIVE: John Hiatt & the Combo, 3/4/10

John Hiatt
John Hiatt

After numerous area solo shows in recent years, singer-songwriter John Hiatt came riding into The Egg in Albany armed with his new, somewhat unimaginatively named band – the Combo – to launch his U.S. tour on Thursday night.

And while the loose-limbed Hiatt is pretty much pegged as a roots/Americana guy these days, the Combo obviously reminded him that there was a time – pre-1987’s “Bring the Family” – when he was considered a rocker. A new wave rocker, at that.

Things started out in a fairly acoustic mode at The Egg, opening with the vintage “Drive South.” But then they slid into “Come Home to You” (from 2001’s “The Tiki Bar Is Open”), and while the instruments were still primarily acoustic and relatively low volume, it was clear from Doug Lancio‘s scorching bottleneck guitar solo that things were definitely gonna heat up.

And a couple of songs later, the band plugged in and launched into a run of tunes from Hiatt’s brand-spankin’ new album, “The Open Road,” starting with the title tune, which had a decidedly Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers flavor to it. “My Baby” – another new standout – was a flat-out blues stomper, thanks to the locked-into-the-groove rhythm section of bassist Patrick O’Hearn and longtime Hiatt drummer Kenneth Blevins.

The band took things a bit over the top with “Your Dad Did,” which sagged a bit under the overblown rock arrangement, but a rousing “Cry Love” – with Lancio shining brightly on 12-string electric mandolin – helped put things back on course.

“The Tiki Bar Is Open” shimmered. “Real Fine Love” was thick and sludgy, tinged with a heavy metal wallop. But it was “Paper Thin” (from 1988’s “Slow Turning”) that was the real highlight of the show – all hot and edgy rockin’ that sounded almost dangerous. Who knew that Hiatt still had it in him?

When You're Paper Thin: John Hiatt
When You're Paper Thin: John Hiatt

By blood, opening act Holly Williams is bona fide country music royalty. Her father is Hank Williams, Jr., and her grandfather was, of course, Hank Williams. Quite an albatross to carry around your neck.

But over the course of her 25-minute set, she claimed the stage as her own with first-rate songs – especially her opening volley of “Sometimes” and “Between Your Lines,” both culled from 2004 debut album, “The Ones We Never Knew” – and a genuinely heartbreaking catch in her voice.

Williams’ husband Chris Coleman joined her onstage for the second half of her brief performance on guitar and backing vocals, but other than his howling harmonica solo on “I Hold On,” he didn’t bring much to the table.

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union
And in The Daily Gazette, Michael Hochanadel wrote, “John Hiatt sure loves his new band: the Combo. On Thursday at The Egg, they unleashed his inner rocker. That leg-kicking, riff-blasting, falsetto-screaming, extra-loud extrovert may not have been far below the surface in half a decade of relatively quiet, introspective solo shows here, but it sure was big fun to see him kick out the jams in a full-on blast.”


Drive South
Come Home to You
Crossing Muddy Waters
The Open Road
My Baby
What Kind of Man
Movin’ On
Your Dad Did
Cry Love
Perfectly Good Guitar
Wonder of Love
Paper Thin
The Tiki Bar Is Open
Real Fine Love
Tennessee Plates
Master of Disaster
Riding With the King

Between Your Lines
Three Days in Bed
I Hold On
Angel From Montgomery
Without Jesus Here With Me

Kenneth Blevins, Patrick O'Hearn and Doug Lancio
Kenneth Blevins, Patrick O'Hearn and Doug Lancio

Chris Coleman and Holly Williams
Chris Coleman and Holly Williams

  1. Snayle says

    Hiatt hits Tarrytown tomorrow nite… looks like I’ll be walkin’ into a rolicin’ good time !

  2. Snayle says

    Tarrytown set included a couple more tunes…
    Drive South
    Come Home to you
    Crossing Muddy Waters
    Tiki Bar
    Open Road
    Go Down Swingin’
    Like a Freight Train
    Perfectly Good Guitar
    Cry Love
    Alone in the Dark
    Slow Turnin’

    *…from here came the electric guitars…:
    Tennessee Plates
    Real Fine Love
    Paper Thin
    Feels Like Rain
    Memphis in the Meantime

    Riding with the King
    Have a Little Faith…

  3. Greg says

    Whoa! “Feels Like Rain” AND “Have a Little Faith in Me”??? Sounds like you had a damned fine pre-birthday celebration, Snayle! Happy belated!

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