LIVE: Alejandro Escovedo @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 5/11/18

(photo: Alan Goldberg)
Alejandro Escovedo (photo: Alan Goldberg)

Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Michael Hochanadel, Alan Goldberg

Two years to the day after his previous Cohoes appearance, Alejandro Escovedo returned to the Cohoes Music Hall, performing solo this time: just guitar, vocals and a bunch of songs and stories. “It’s great coming back to this beautiful theater… I love playing here,” proclaimed Escovedo.

In truth, the show didn’t exactly begin with a bang, Escovedo strolling onstage, coaxing another round of applause for opener Kris Gruen, and then launching into a lengthy rambling monologue about his career and various acquaintances, with some of the wittiest lines (“I always say if you’re clapping for the Nuns you’ve never heard the Nuns because we were the world’s worst band”) reprised from his last visit.

Fortunately, Escovedo was testifying to about 150 true believers who stuck with him through the eight-minute sermon, and our patience was amply rewarded once the music finally started. Escovedo seemed to be in a pensive mood for the most part – after donning an electric guitar for a raucous “Chelsea Hotel ’78,” Escovedo started “Velvet Guitar” then quickly changed course, abandoning both the song and the axe.

I was most impressed by the evening’s tender moments, such as the opening “Five Hearts Breaking,” a gorgeous version of “Rosalie” and especially when Escovedo moved off-mic for a mesmerizing version of Mott the Hoople’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” “You don’t mind if I play this way, I hope,” asked Escovedo. “This room is very beautiful, so it’s nice to play this way.” He stayed unplugged, filling the hall with unamplified voice and acoustic guitar for the three subsequent tunes.

After “Sensitive Boys,” Escovedo asked for requests. “Pale Blue Eyes,” someone shouted. “Sway,” yelled another. “One of my songs would be nice,” muttered Escovedo. “I’m not a cover band. I like to play my own songs.” Someone shouted, “Arizona,” and Escovedo happily obliged, his hurt feelings seemingly assuaged. “By Eleven” completed the unplugged portion of the festivities, followed by rousing versions of “Always a Friend” and “Castanets.”

I often wish there were more young folks at the shows I attend, but one advantage of being in a room full of geezers was that nearly everyone knew the words and sang along to the closing number, “All the Young Dudes.” David Bowie wrote the song for Mott the Hoople in early 1972 after they turned down his first offering, a little ditty called “Suffragette City.” Escovedo’s elegiac version, aided by the audience, was a fitting end to a lovely evening.

Five Hearts Breaking
Bottom of the World
Sally Was a Cop
Luna De Miel
Beauty of Your Smile
Down in the Bowery
Chelsea Hotel ‘78
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Sensitive Boys
By Eleven
Always a Friend/Tracks of My Tears
All the Young Dudes

(photo: Michael Hochanadel)
Alejandro Escovedo (photo: Michael Hochanadel)

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