Desmond Traynor Steve Earle / Vicar Street, June 29th, 2023
After an engaging supporting set from Edinburgh’s Roseanne Reid, the Hardcore Troubadour strolls out on to the Vicar Street stage for the concluding show of the European leg of his Alone Again Tour, kicking things off with a cover of The Pogues’ ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’, because ‘Shane McGowan is one of the best songwriters around.’ From then on it’s mostly a judicious selection of crowd favourites from his back catalogue, such as ‘The Devil’s Right Hand’,
‘My Old Friend The Blues’, ‘Guitar Town’ and ‘I Ain’t Ever Satisfied.’ The evening reaches an emotional crescendo with covers of Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Mr. Bojangles’, and his own deceased son Justin’s ‘Harlem River Blues’. Big hitters ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘Copperhead Road’ are saved until the end. It is hard to do the solo acoustic thing, and what you realise watch Earle is that you are in the hands of a master, who can read the room.
The otherwise excellent set concludes on a somewhat jarring note, as during the encore Earle takes a rather gratuitous pop at Roger Waters for his promotion of the BDS campaign against apartheid Israel, while introducing his own plea for peace in the region, 2003’s ‘Jerusalem’. Earle visited Israel in 2013 to take part in David Broza’s ‘East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem’ bridge-building project. While one should respect the fact that Earle was acting in good faith, it is not unreasonable to ask, ‘Would you have played Sun City in apartheid South Africa, Steve, because you ‘don’t believe in hopeless cases or lost causes’?’ If not, why go against the wishes of the majority of the Palestinian people now?
Otherwise, the veteran sails on, a consummate professional who, at this stage of the game, knows exactly what he’s doing, and how to do it.