Fifty years into his career, Alejandro Escovedo still rocks - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

“I only got a few minutes here, so I wanna make the most of it with music,” Alejandro Escovedo said after his band stomped through their fourth blues-rock barn-burner. They were the first words he said during his Free at Noon set; the past fifteen minutes were music and music only. No banter, no thank yous or you’re welcomes, hardly even a pause between Escovedo’s epic jams; they didn’t even stop to tune, with Escovedo’s backing guitarist turning his knobs as the songs themselves were finishing. There’s obviously a lot of reasons to keep the chit-chat to a minimum on stage, especially at a radio gig; efficiency is chief among them, and Escovedo’s band loves to stretch out and jam for a bit. Still, one could easily imagine someone as beloved as Escovedo, a living legend who’s been performing for nearly fifty years, taking his sweet time up on stage, promoting his new album, doing anything that might indicate how important he is to indie music history. I’d say that Escovedo is too humble for all that, but then again, look at that killer suit!

The San Antonio singer-songwriter is in that victory-lap moment of his career. Coming up on half a century of playing punk, blues, and everything in between, he released Echo Dancing, a collection of re-recorded versions of old tracks scattered across his discography, last March. Those new versions aren’t just re-treads meant to keep the royalties flowing, by the way; they’re reanimations of some of Escovedo’s best songs, redone with glitchy electronics and beautiful sound palettes. Escovedo might be roots-rock royalty, but he still plays with the conviction of a young punk just getting their start.

Alejandro Escovedo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Howling poetically through a vintage microphone slathered in distortion, Alejandro Escovedo’s set sounded like thirty minutes of the best bar band you’ve never heard of. While his new reworkings of songs like “Bury Me” and “Sacramento & Polk” are painstakingly detailed, the live versions are unpretentious, simple guitar-keys-drum arrangements, grounded by Escovedo’s effortlessly cool persona. (Again, I have to mention that suit!) The crowd was dancing, some people with others, some on their own; even the songs I wasn’t familiar with had me tapping my foot near-instantly.

Before closing the show, and between two passionate-but-brief shoutouts to independent radio, Escovedo performed “Sensitive Boys,” another cut that was re-recorded for Echo Dreaming. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but something was making a tinny, digital buzzing sound throughout the entire song. Did it trip Escovedo up? I’m not even sure he noticed. He sweetly crooned over the piano-driven ballad, perhaps completely unaware of the noise, perhaps reveling in the edge it brought to the saccharine-sweet piece. As the track went on, synth pads and soft guitar chords poured through the room; it was a heavenly sound, the kind of thing most musicians would close on. But Alejandro Escovedo is not most musicians.

After “Sensitive Boys,” they gave us one more blues rock track, the explosive “Too Many Tears.” I’m still split on which Escovedo I like more; the new, studio-as-instrument Escovedo that I’m hearing on Echo Dreaming, or the Escovedo who still plays like he’s the house band at a Texas dive. All in all, I’m just glad we get to see him do both this late in his career.

Alejandro Escovedo
  • John Conquest
  • Sacramento & Polk
  • Bury Me
  • Everybody Loves Me
  • Sensitive Boys
  • Too Many Tears
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