LIVE: Alejandro Escovedo & the Sensitive Boys @ Club Helsinki, 6/8/11

Alejandro Escovedo has been touring with a trio for the past several years in support of his last two albums, “Real Animal” and “Street Songs of Love.” Their recent Club Helsinki show provided ample selections from both albums – some of the standouts being “Chelsea 78” and “Sensitive Boys” from the former and “This Bed Is Getting Crowded” and “Anchor” from the latter.

Like most really good songwriters, Escovedo combines simplicity, universal themes and pinpoint emotional observations. Who hasn’t been in a romantic relationship and felt that there was a third party present either real, feared or floating like a ghost from the past, as in “This Bed Is Getting Crowded”?

The musical accompaniment for many of the songs combined two of Escovedo’s influences, punk and garage rock. Led by David Pulkingham on guitar, his band constantly raised the voltage on the rockers, and his tight rhythm section – Hector Munoz on drums and Bobby Daniel on bass – drove the beat. On “Castanets” they turned the heat up high enough that a number of people left their seats for the dance floor.

But Escovedo doesn’t just rock: the middle of the set was dedicated to acoustic renderings of several songs, two of which were from his stage play and CD “From The Hand Of The Father.” This album traces the migration of his family from Mexico to America. For these songs, Pulkingham played a nylon-string acoustic with Spanish classical flavoring to capture the very personal meaning of that journey for families like Escovedo’s who were seeking a new beginning in America, but also invested in keeping Mexican culture alive for their children.

My favorite song of the evening, “Down In The Bowery,” written about his relationship with his son, says more about father-adolescent son relationships in just over four minutes then many books on the topic say in several hundred pages. If you are a parent of an adolescent, the line “I’d buy you a smile in a minute, but would your wear it?” will ring true.

Escovedo always pays homage to his influences, and this night was no different. “Like A Hurricane” featured Pulkingham and Escovedo in all their Crazy Horse garage glory. And “Miss You” with Escovedo sans guitar – but with the addition of proto-punk guitarslinger Ivan Julian, who opened the show with a solo set – was some fine glam.

I left the show with a smile on my face wanting more, but knowing that I had heard some great music. The next time Escovedo is in the area do yourself a favor and go. And on a last note, it was my first time at Club Helsinki, which is a first-rate environment for a club show. Highly recommended.

Review by Richard Brody

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