Concert Review: Warren Zevon (Valentine’s, Albany, New York, March 12, 2000)

“Doors at 8 PM, show at 8:30.”

Yeah, right. Anyone who spends much time in Clubland knows that you can generally tack an extra hour onto such scheduled times and still hit the club before your favorite artist even thinks about taking the stage. Unfortunately, however, most of Warren Zevon’s older, harder-drinking, cynical fans didn’t seem to recognize that verity Sunday, since they started getting surly and aggressive about the usual delays long before I would have reached the outrage stage. But what was the big deal, really? At least the folks at Valentine’s let you stand in the bar, right? And with only two artists on the bill, you were still gonna be home by midnight, weren’t you? And, yes, it was crowded, but if you’d done what the staff asked and moved to the back, you would have been much more comfortable, now, wouldn’t you have been?

But, no, you didn’t want to listen to the staff, since you were too busy blaming them for the delays and shoving each other around in your rush to be the first ones upstairs. Well, guess what? The delays weren’t the staff’s fault. The blame belongs instead to your man Warren Zevon himself. First, he was having the monitors moved from their overhead racks to the stage floor. Then he was getting a lock put on the lady’s room so you couldn’t use it. Then he was having his hired help telling the staff (and the music critic) not to make eye contact with him before the show. Then he was making emergency phone calls when his electronic keep-my-voice-in-pitch box wasn’t working properly. Then he was sulking in the green room, which also needed a new lock.

So all of you owe the staff at Valentine’s an apology, and I’m recommending they don’t let you back in until they get it. Although I’d like you to take care of that fast please, since, uh, if Zevon does want to come back to Valentine’s, I want to be there with all of your bad selves again — seeing as how your man did offer one helluva set, despite himself. As did opener Mike Errico, whose approach mixed sweet singing, smart tunes and an innovative guitar attack that used handslaps, harmonics and electronics to create a halo of sound around the singer’s songs. Very nice!

The Zevonites were polite throughout Errico’s set–but just barely. Finally, however, their hardscrabble hero took the stage, looking lucid, balanced and, dare I say it, buff. And what’s this world coming to when “Mr. Bad Example” himself is hitting the weights, huh? I dunno, although I did like hearing Zevon sing that song, all by his lonesome with an acoustic guitar. In fact, I liked all of his songs that way, except for the ones that he played on the piano, but I liked them that way, too.

Zevon’s loser’s-eye-view tales came across so much more authentically on Sunday, stripped of the glossy Waddy-Wachtel-flavored Cali-lite stylings that neutralize several of his otherwise potent studio albums. He played those old faves, of course–“Werewolves of London,” “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and the like-but the evening’s best material may have actually been the group of songs culled from his brand new disc, Life’ll Kill Ya. “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down,” “Porcelain Monkey,” “Hostage-O” and (best of all) “My Shit’s Fucked Up” were such monster tunes that they simply lit up the room, the evening, the town (didja notice?), despite Zevon’s modest baritone, despite his humble guitar skills, despite the fact that he’s a crank who attracts cranky fans. Like me.

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