We’ll Steal Your Heart Away

The Watkins Family Hour always puts on a good show at Christmas time and this year was no exception. The concert was held on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at Largo at the Coronet. In the pre-show rundown we were told that this would be the last Watkins Family Hour at Largo until possibly April.


The Largo Stage is Set for the Watkins Family Hour

Sara and Sean Watkins stepped onto the stage first, wishing us all a “Merry Christmas” and Sean started off the show singing, “There’s a last time for everything.” The band was then invited onstage and consisted of Sebastian Steinberg on bass, Don Heffington on drums, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Benmont Tench on piano, and David Garza on guitar. They kicked off into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick 6” with Sara singing lead vocals.

The band then played three of their typical songs. From Nickel Creek, the performed “Somebody More Like You,” which was refreshing to hear as a full band arrangement, especially with the addition of the pedal steel.  Sara introduced the next song by saying, “This is our hit single,” and the group launched into “Steal Your Heart Away.” I borrowed the line from this song for the title of this blog post. Sean remarked, “It’s a sentimental time of year,” which opened up some banter between Sara and Sean about sentimental songs, though Sara then introduced “You and Me” by remarking, “This is about different stages in life.”

DSC04165The band left the stage as special guest Kate Micucci was announced. She has a different Christmas song as part of her duo Garfunkel and Oates that she didn’t play (maybe not appropriate for the family hour). Instead, she performed an amusing song on guitar about going home for Christmas where everyone else is treated as an adult, but she is still treated as a child.  “Christmas time at my house, congratulations you’re still a kid; everyone got older, I’ll just pretend I never did.” Her brother Matt Micucci joined her onstage part way through the song to accompany her on kazoo.  The pair then played a piano duet that  was titled, “Schlittenfahrt” (sleigh ride in German), which purportedly has been played annually at their family Christmas celebrations.

The band then returned to the stage and Sean introduced the next song by saying, “Christmas can be a wild time of year.” Not sure the title of this new one, but it has the lyrics, “We stayed up talking to 11, all alone, just you and I; I go crazy about you and there’s no telling what I’ll do; ’cause darling you bring out my wild side.” Next Sara mentioned that it was a tradition in her family to listen to a Michael Martin Murphey Christmas album, though the next song was not by him, but was a “two steppin’ song,” “Any Old Time.”  Piano player Benmont Tench then sang one of his new songs which began, “Bring me your sorrows, bring me your troubles, bring me your devils that howl at the door.” Another lyric was “Let it fall away, let it fall where it may, you can walk away from it all; there’s nothing to hurt you and nothing to help you under the starlight that cradles us all.” Then drummer Don Heffington got the chance to go to the front of the stage while Sean sat in on the drums for Don’s twist on “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

There was a break in the music as comedian/magician Derek Hughes (America’s Got Talent, Season 10) took the stage. He mentioned that he had already bought a ticket to the WFH show when he was asked to perform. He joked that performers had to buy tickets and audience members would be used as performers, then pointed at me and asked if I was ready to do a set later.  I gave him a thumbs up. After a bit of funny patter, he did a trick where he guessed the colors three people had chosen out of a box of crayons. Then he brought those three people (Heidi, Samantha, and Chad) on stage, put a toy letter block in a bag, had them shake it up and then correctly guessed which letter was on top for each person.

Sean and Sara returned to the stage and Sara sang a “beautiful old song,” the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” (James Taylor’s version at the link). It started out fairly serious and beautiful, but soon enough the Micucci siblings returned to the stage as elves and shook a lot of fake snow all over Sara and Sean as they were playing.  The pair had plastic snow in their hair for the rest of the night.   Sean then played another new song that I believe will be on his next album due in March. Some of the verses were: “You were born unto a king and a queen … just to turn and find your fortress was a hole in the ground.” “The power of suggestion is a mighty force indeed … Thank God you crawled out of that hole where you were living.”

Then the final special guest of the evening was announced, none other than legendary singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne. The whole band returned to the stage to support his song, “I’ll Do Anything” (linked a version of Jackson singing with Sara and Sean in the backing band). I love how Jackson introduced his song by saying, “I don’t know why I picked this song. It came to mind because the Christmas season is hard on some people.” Thankful to him for thinking of those who may not be having the merriest of Christmases this year.  Then they played a touching cover of a song written by Kieran Kane, “When We’re Gone, Long Gone” (check that link for a beautiful version featuring country powerhouses Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton that is on their Trio 2 album). “When we’re gone, long gone, the only thing that will have mattered, is the love that we shared and the way that we cared.”

The Watkins Family Hour band then performed what is getting to be a regular closer for them “Brokedown Palace” (link of them performing on Conan includes a verse sung by David Garza). They surprised me that night with one more song, “Forever Young,” before concluding the set.

DSC04167For the encore, David Garza came to the front of the stage and played an absolutely gorgeous rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” on his guitar (he’s on piano at the link).  The next time through he sang it and was joined on stage by all the guests from the evening. Then Sara called for one more time through the song and encouraged all of the audience to singalong. That was a special moment and I felt a sense of blissful unity and connection. As the song finished, Sara announced that there would be more music after the show in The Little Room and for the audience to come along.






Where My Heart Wants to Be

There was a short set of songs in The Little Room at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, December 18, 2015 after Jon Brion’s show. Gosh I love this space, even though it is pretty cold on the winter nights! So great to sit just a few feet away from the performers.

The set on Friday night was led by David Garza. He started off pretty soon after Jon’s set, inviting his friend, singer Gaby Moreno, on stage for a couple songs.  They started off with the song “Los Peces en el Rio,” with Sara Watkins joining in on the fiddle. Then their friend Arthur was invited onstage to play guitar while David played piano for a cover of the very pretty Christmas song “December” originally sung by Kay Starr.

David then played guitar with Sebastian Steinberg on bass and the others exited the stage. I believe David was playing one of his original songs, but I am afraid I don’t know the title. Lyrics included, “Who do you fool when you say yes?” “Who makes you dream of jet black days and dirty blonde midnights?  “What’ll it take to break your heart?”

Sean Watkins then joined the pair on stage for an apocalyptic song by E.C Ball called “Tribulations.” There followed a song that Sean called the first one that he learned to play, a Carter Family song, “Bury Me Beneath the Willow.”  Then Sean played a new song he had written that he referenced as a response to the Gillian Welch song “Caleb Meyer.” I believe he has played this one at a previous Watkins Family Hour and it will be on his forthcoming album. The song is the one with the line, “Darling please don’t cry because the world is wrong.” Sean finished up his time on stage by playing his song from Nickel Creek, “Somebody More Like You.”

David then played two more songs before concluding the evening. The first he introduced by mentioning “scary bad high school poetry,” and I think it may be called “Snow Black.” It had a line, “You whispered fairy tales so sweet and wrapped me in your arms.” The second one, “Lost at Sea” from his band, Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom, reminded me of the song “Nature Boy,” maybe because of the first line, “Long ago and far away I ruled a kingdom on a beach.” It wraps up neatly with the line, “I’m exactly where my heart wants to be, lost at sea.” I’ve borrowed part of that line for this blog post title. My heart wants to be in The Little Room at Largo!

Someone Really Gets You


The Largo Stage Decorated for Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2015 found me back at Largo at the Coronet for the last Jon Brion show of the year. Surprise opener was actor and comedian Zach Galifianakis, who delivered a short, yet hilarious, set of new jokes.

As usual, Jon started off the show by playing a couple instrumental pieces on the piano. He began slowly with chords alternating between the treble and bass until he created a full sound; it was reminiscent to me of something from a Rachmaninoff concerto.  The second piece felt like it could be the accompaniment to an old-fashioned murder mystery, perhaps a story by Agatha Christie featuring Hercule Poirot.  The third piece started with a Hoagy Carmichael type of song, then he clearly performed part of the “Arabian Dance” from the Nutcracker Suite before launching into his own song from his album Meaningless, “Ruin My Day.” Next was a jazzy piano sort of number with broken bass chords and ascending chords at the end (it wasn’t anything I recognized).

Jon switched to acoustic guitar for a short time, playing a cool arrangement of “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” Then he moved on to a medley that began with “Jingle Bell Rock” followed by a couple more tunes that I couldn’t name, though the first of the two made me think of “Downtown Strutters’ Ball.” Then he played the song “Nothing Between Us” from his early band The Grays and which was on the album Ro Sham Bo.  “So long, say goodbye we’re better off somehow.”

So he said goodbye to his guitar and headed back to the piano for the rest of the evening.  He called out for bassist Sebastian Steinberg to join him and after waiting a minute and Sebastian not appearing, Jon began to play “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz. He then asked for a request and ended up playing “I Believe She’s Lying.” Does he play this song faster every time I hear him playing it live? It seems that way.


Creepy Santa, Stage Right

The next request was for “Peanuts’ Christmas,” which is actually called “Christmas Time is Here.” Sebastian arrived on stage to provide the essential bass support this song requires. Then they played an odd sort of jazzy/spooky/minor key version of “Jingle Bells,” with Jon holding his left hand on the strings of the piano creating an almost plucked sound from the piano as he played it with his right hand. Maybe Jon was inspired by the creepy Santa at the side of the stage? There followed a rolling version of “Caravan,” after which Sebastian left the stage.

Jon played a selection of three of his own songs, “Strange Bath” from the movie Punch-Drunk Love, “Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees, and a request, “Here We Go,” also from Punch-Drunk Love. I’ve borrowed part of a line from this song for this blog post title, “The feeling that someone really gets you; it’s something that no one should object to; it could happen today…”. Speaking of Punch-Drunk Love, do you have your ticket for the movie screening in Los Angeles at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel with a live orchestra playing the score on March 5, 2015?

Then David Garza was introduced and Sebastian returned to the stage. David borrowed Jon’s guitar to play through “Blue Christmas,” the second time around doing his best Elvis impersonation while singing the verse (check the link for David’s performance of this song from a few years ago). During the song, Jon was using a guitar pick on the piano strings to create the sound effect of bar chimes. David then led a mash-up of The Police song “Roxanne” with the Christmas song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” — “Rudolph (You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light).” They were joined on stage as the song began by Sara Watkins who played fiddle and provided background vocals. Her brother, Sean Watkins, then entered the stage and the group performed a cover of Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick 6.”  Jon popped off stage briefly to grab a box of percussion instruments and chose to play a tambourine, cow bell, and the edge of the piano with a pair of drumsticks.

There was a request from the audience for another one of Jon’s songs from Meaningless,  “Trouble,” for which Jon asked Sara to sing the lead vocal. Another request brought on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden,” with Jon singing a verse and then David singing another verse and doing some moves like Jagger as he sang. The group then broke out into a jamming rendition of the bluesy “Keep It Clean,” led by Sean Watkins. After this song, David, Sara, and Sean all left the stage.

Jon took another request from the audience, this time for David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” Bless him for playing this song after my recent love affair with the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. After this song, Sebastian stepped off the stage again. However, after getting a request for Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” Jon called out, “Hey Sebastian, if you’re within earshot, I think you better come back.” Sebastian immediately stepped onto the stage with his bass from just behind the curtain in the wings. At one point Jon also incorporate the well-known introduction of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” into the song. Sebastian left the stage again on the conclusion of this song.

For the final song, Jon was playing another of his impromptu piano pieces (or something I didn’t recognize). I jotted down that he was pounding through a lot of chords and that it was leading somewhere. In my head, I thought, “Moon River,” and then unbelievably,  about 20 seconds later he started playing “Moon River!” I love it when my musical planets are aligned with Jon’s, though I completely lost my composure in the moment. Yes, “someone really gets” me, though he doesn’t even know me.

For the encore, he went back to guitar and played just one song “I Was Happy With You.” But the night wasn’t over yet, as there was to be a performance in The Little Room featuring David Garza and Sean Watkins immediately after the show.



Are You Nostalgic For a Time

The Hotel Cafe (not a hotel or a cafe!) was my destination on Saturday, November 21, 2015 to see musician Gabriel Kahane.  This was my third time seeing Gabriel, the first being a performance last year at the same venue and the second time when he opened for Punch Brothers this past April. I bought his album The Ambassador at that concert having been thoroughly impressed by his cerebral and masterful songwriting.

Gabriel is a versatile composer and his catalog of music includes beautiful ballads, eclectic kitsch pieces, emotional explorations, and diverse ruminations on themes. His lyrics are thoughtful and several of his songs could stand alone as poems based on the strength and rhythm of his words.  Rather then trying to define this complex and diverse music in mere words, I suggest you listen to his music and draw your own conclusions!


Gabriel Kahane Playing Guitar at The Hotel Cafe

He began his performance at The Hotel Cafe on guitar, playing the pretty “Winter Song” from his album Where are the Arms. Next, he switched over to the piano (and spent most of the evening there) for “North Adams” from his self-titled album.

Then he played apocalypse song “Griffith Park (2800 E. Observatory Ave.)” from The Ambassador. He taught the audience the background “la di dah” section and advised us to sing it with the “subtext of abject terror.” It took a few times for the audience to figure out the rhythm properly, but the nice thing about L.A. is that it seems like everyone can sing well (and by well, I mean at least in tune). He stuck with The Ambassador, his concept album based on locations real and fictional around Los Angeles, for three more songs: “Bradbury (304 Broadway)” dedicated to Rutger Hauer; one of my favorites, “Villains (4616 Dundee Rd.) ,” which he preceded by mentioning that this song could be a summary of the Thom Andersen documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself (I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this blog); and “Veda (1 Pierce Rd.),” inspired by the film Mildred Pierce — after finishing this one Gabriel noted, “I was Joan Crawford in that song.”

When you’ve written a song about the city you are performing in, of course you must play it, so we were treated to the first of three songs in a row from Where Are the Arms,”LA.”  Gabriel introduced the next song as being about depressing mental illness, “Charming Disease.” “Merritt Pkwy” immediately followed, just as it does on the album. I was particularly struck by the line “Please let me forget you.”

Then Gabriel played a couple new songs. He didn’t give a title for the first song, which had been written fairly recently. It included a couple interesting lyrics I noted down, assuming I heard them correctly, the first being “laughing at the lost and found,” which probably caught my attention because of Elliott Smith’s song  where he was “hanging around in the lost and found.” The other interesting line was, “She begins to cry at last and I became an hourglass.” The second of the new songs was one that he had titled “The Man Who Played with Model Trains,” which sounds like a chapter from a book by Oliver Sacks. Obviously these new songs have not yet hit YouTube, so no links there.


Gabriel Kahane Playing Piano at The Hotel Cafe

He delved back into Where Are the Arms for “Last Dance,” followed by the album’s title track. We were then treated to a couple of the eclectic pieces from Craigslistlieder,  a set of songs with words taken from Craigslist ads:You Looked Sexy” about a missed connection and “If Anyone Knows…” about sandwich relish. Yes you read that right, sandwich relish. Dan Wilson did once write, “A song can be about anything!” Gabriel Kahane believes it. I couldn’t find YouTube videos of Gabriel playing these two pieces, but interestingly, they have been performed by music students, so check out those interpretations.

He closed with the absolutely exquisite song “Ambassador Hotel  (3400 Wilshire Blvd.)” from The Ambassador. It is worth picking up the album for this song alone; particularly if you like wistful, nostalgic, pondering songs as I do. The playlist I put together showcasing various performances of most of the songs from his set can be found at Gabriel Kahane Nov 21 2015.





And Do It All Night Long (Set 2)

DSC03911For the second (10pm) set by Rhett Miller at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, CA on November 20, 2015, the mood was more loose and relaxed. The audience was a little smaller than the earlier sold out show, but clearly made up of dedicated fans. Rhett had changed into a fresh shirt and was just as eager and enthusiastic in his playing as he had been during the earlier set. Because he is so dynamic and powerful in his performance, his voice did sound rougher by the end of the night, but clearly he was having a good time.

Rhett made a set list, but it was more like a suggested list as he varied from it throughout the night, including playing some requests. This was such a treat as he played a bunch of songs I hadn’t previously heard live from Rhett or his band, Old 97’s. Check out the photo of his set list next to the actually list of songs he played. I have also indicated which albums the songs are from; solo albums are marked with an asterisk.


  1. Doreen,” Hitchhike to Rhome, Wreck Your Life
  2. What We Talk About,” Fight Songs
  3. King of All the World,” Satellite Rides
  4. Singular Girl,” The Believer*
  5. Wheels Off,” Most Messed Up
  6. Fair Enough,” The Traveler*
  7. Streets of Where I’m From,” Too Far to Care
  8. Lonely Holiday,” Fight Songs
  9. Bel Air,” Wreck Your Life
  10. Give It Time,” Most Messed Up
  11. Big Brown Eyes,” Too Far to Care, Wreck Your Life
  12. A State of Texas,” The Grand Theatre Volume One
  13. Wish the Worst,” Hitchhike to Rhome
  14. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive,” Most Messed Up
  15. Most in the Summertime,” The Traveler*
  16. Rollerskate Skinny,” Satellite Rides
  17. The Other Shoe,” Wreck Your Life
  18. Dance With Me,” Blame It On Gravity
  19. Indefinitely,” Fight Songs
  20. Wave of Mutilation” (Pixies cover)/”I Wanna Be Sedated” (The Ramones cover), The Interpreter*
  21. Hover,” The Instigator*
  22. Perfume,” The Grand Theatre Vol. 2
  23. Barrier Reef,” Too Far to Care
  24. Most Messed Up,” Most Messed Up
  25. Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On,” Most Messed Up
  26. Timebomb,” Too Far to Care

I’ve compiled a YouTube playlist of all the songs from the set from all the videos I linked in the above list. Check it out under Rhett Miller Set List 2 Nov 20 2015.

A few notes now on what Rhett decided to chat to the audience about between some of the songs. He played through the first four songs before stopping to talk to the audience by introducing “Wheels Off.” He explained that he had been playing a series of shows at Largo under this title and so he  decided to write “a theme song for his Largo show.” Admittedly the lyrics are embellished to reflect a livin’ larger than life kind of dude, though I have seen Rhett drinking Jameson on the Largo stage (“pour me some Jameson, give me some rocks”).

Prior to playing “Lonely Holiday,” he told a long detailed story about living in a house in Bel Air — a cottage on stilts. He talked about watching the lizards in Benedict Canyon. He later learned that Jim Morrison had lived in that house for a short time and that perhaps Jim had watched the ancestors of these same lizards and been inspired to write, “I am the lizard king, I can do anything.” Rhett continued on about living in the house with a few interesting characters. One was a young woman who picked up a well-known (married) NFL player (I’ll keep his name confidential) at a club and brought him back to the house. Rhett couldn’t believe that he had unknowingly been sleeping down the hall from this person. He mentioned that “Lonely Holiday” was a request he had received earlier and that this song was inspired by the time he spent living at this house.

He next paused from playing to introduce”A State of Texas.” He explained how he gives Old 97’s first dibs on songs he writes. When he brought them this one, which sounds like a travel brochure for Texas, it did not impress, arguably the most stereotypical Texan of them all, guitarist Ken Bethea. Ken felt that it was too “on point,” too “on the nose.” Of course, who was pleased as punch when the University of Texas Longhorns began to use this song?

Rhett blasted through a bunch of songs before stopping and asking for requests from the floor. One gentleman shouted out “Hover” and Rhett played it,  and though he said it had been a while, he made his way through it just fine.  He got another request from a longtime fan for “Perfume,” which was great to be able to hear live. He then pushed his way through the final five songs. He seemed to enjoy playing so much that evening that perhaps he might have wanted to “do it all night long” (a line from “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” that I’ve borrowed for the title of this post), but he closed off the set with Timebomb and we all knew he was done, no returning for an encore. After all, he did have another show to play the following evening back in Texas. Those of us who stayed for the whole night at McCabe’s got such a treat — 49 songs in one evening (50 if you count “Wave of Mutilation” and “I Wanna Be Sedated” as two songs, though he plays them as a back-to-back medley)! Amazing! Thank you Rhett for the energetic and entertaining night of music.


Rhett’s stickered guitar case on the stage at McCabe’s.




My Name’s Stewart Ransom Miller (Set 1)

DSC03910Rhett Miller, lead singer and rhythm guitar player for the band Old 97’s, played two sets at McCabe’s in Santa Monica on Friday, November 20, 2015. This post covers the first set. McCabe’s is one of those venues that does not permit photography or video, so sorry for the lack of photos of Rhett in this post.

Rhett stepped onto the stage wielding his Gibson J-200 to kick off the evening with Old 97’s song, “Melt Show,” a classic track from their excellent album Too Far to Care. I felt extra special since I was sitting in the front row, the first line of the song being, “In the front row, at the Melt Show, I fell in love with you…”. Next he belted out “New Kid” from Drag It Up, followed by “The El” from one of his solo albums, The Instigator. Having lived in Chicago during my university years and rattled along on the El in many different emotional states, I can really relate to that one.

A story followed of Rhett’s audition for a performing arts high school. He said he played something called, “Marching Mad Man.” The guy running the audition failed to be impressed by Rhett’s use of “open chords” or the fact that Rhett was already writing his own songs and Rhett did not get into the school. So it turns out Rhett is another example that people shouldn’t be put off by rejection, as he has had a pretty successful career making music — one person’s opinion is just that.  He concluded his story and laughed as he started up “Buick City Complex,” noting, “this one features some fingerpicking.” The song can be found on Satellite Rides, which is one of my favorite Old 97’s albums.

Rhett then swiftly moved through a group of songs from various albums including: the sad “Salome,” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care;Little Disaster,” from Rhett’s most recent solo effort The Traveler; the devil-may-care rocker “Wasted,” from the latest album by Old 97’s, Most Messed Up; deep-cut tune “W-I-F-E” from his band’s album Wreck Your Life;  the first track from his solo album The Dreamer, “Lost Without You;” and then back to Too Far to Care for the ever-popular,”Barrier Reef,” which is the song that got me into Rhett Miller and Old 97’s in the first place. I borrowed a line from this song for the blog post’s title. What I love about Rhett is the enthusiasm he puts into every show. He really gives 100% effort to his performance for his audience.  Just this grouping of songs shows how much he bounces around through his catalog of material, keeping it entertaining for all fans.

Next was “Nashville,” from Most Messed Up, one of those songs that does not have the title anywhere in the lyric. (Wait, you mean it isn’t called “I’m Tired of Runnin’?”) This song is sprinkled with f-bombs and Rhett commented on it after he sang it. Rhett tells a story about the origin of the swearing in the song at the beginning of the video I linked.  At the show, Rhett referenced a sound man, Mike, who after hearing “Nashville” said, “You don’t got to talk like that man.”  Rhett tells that this same Mike had a chance to be part of the band No Doubt when it was first forming, but was like, “Ska? Whatever.”   So says Rhett, who is such a good storyteller, he could be sprouting any matter of baloney and I would believe it. Is he the king of Balderdash, I wonder?

Rhett then sang the beautiful song “Question,” including a verse in French. This song is on both Satellite Rides and Rhett’s self-titled album – it’s that good! After singing this sweet proposal song, he launched into the break-up song “Fireflies,” without mentioning it was a duet, but I noticed he was singing into one side of the mic for his part and the other side of the mic for the woman’s verses. I love the line in this song (from Rhett’s solo album The Believer): “I’m going to sleep on the train tracks, it’s gonna be peaceful, and then it’s gonna get rough.” Also, of course, “In a jar, Fireflies only last for one night.” So much being said metaphorically; such brilliant lyric writing from Rhett.

A more direct lyric wonderland is “Longer Then You’ve Been Alive,” Rhett’s humorous, “self-referential” tune about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle from Most Messed Up.  After playing this one off the latest Old 97’s album, Rhett reached back into the Old 97’s catalog about 20 years to perform “Stoned,” originally on Hitchhike to Rhome. I linked to the album version because Rhett kind of sounds stoned on a bunch of the live videos of this song that people have posted on YouTube. You can also note that his Texas accent is diminished on the later live versions.

Rhett got pretty chatty at this point in the show and told a long story about being on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, as a 13 year old, where he won a magnum of champagne in a limbo contest! The important part of the story was that he met a girl from Los Angeles on this vacation and they became pen pals. Eventually he was able to visit her in L.A. and it sounded like the next song he sang, “Wicked Things” from The Traveler might have been inspired by this relationship or those formative experiences he had with her. He followed that one up with “Just Like California” from Too Far to Care.  This has me wondering if there is purposeful planning or some sort of free association happening when he writes his set lists.

Next up is a song that has been stuck in my head of late, “Oppenheimer,” as I have been recently listening to Old 97’s album Fight Songs on a regular basis.  This song is so ridiculously catchy. He followed it up with “Niteclub,” another one from Too Far to Care. I could not find a good live video of this song on YouTube, so readers, if you catch an Old 97’s show and they play this song, I hope you shoot some decent video and your camera’s mic isn’t blown away by the amps.  After the song,  Rhett was talking about how he’ll keep writing more songs (so he can earn more money), because “Is it enough to have 16 albums? No my kids have to eat food…every day!”

Next up was another from Most Messed Up, the one Rhett refers to as the love song on the album, “Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On.” He then closed the set with his cover of  Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s song “American Girl,” which is on Rhett’s live at Largo album, The Interpreter. Rhett told a related story about playing that song with Heartbreaker keyboardist Benmont Tench, where Rhett was being pretty humble telling him that he doesn’t play it like they do, particularly that “disco breakdown” at the end. To which Benmont laughed and responded, “You think that’s disco?”

Rhett returned to the stage quickly for the encore, playing “Most in the Summertime“from The Traveler. The link is to the official video for the song and this is the one he was playing most at radio stations, etc., in promoting his recent solo album. He closed, as usual, with Old 97’s signature rocker from Too Far to Care, “Timebomb.” He mostly stuck to the set list he made, but there was no “Four Leaf Clover” before the encore or “Wish the Worst” after the encore.


Set List 1 for Rhett Miller at McCabe’s, 8pm Show on November 20, 2015

What a wonderful evening of music. So many of my favorite songs were played and there were interesting stories too. I’ve compiled a YouTube playlist of all the songs from the set from all the videos I linked throughout this post. Check it out under Rhett Miller Set List 1 Nov 20 2015.  But the night didn’t end there, there’s more!  Remember, that was just the first set. After a brief break, including a little time spent strumming a couple guitars from the wall in the store section of McCabe’s, I returned to my seat to eagerly await the second set.