John Prine October 8, 2007
By Glen Creason
No need to mince words about the visit of John Prine to the Performing Arts Center; the key noun here is genius. That superlative may be tossed around endlessly but when it comes to the songs of this songwriter and his performance of same the grand meaning of the word is stretched to the limits. I could go on about how long I have been a fan or that I have the beat up vinyl eponymous album from 1971. However, the fact is that Prine has become an American icon with a repertoire of classic, insightful and precious song jewels that will stand until sound ceases to come out of speakers. At 61 years of age Mr. Prine has come through the valley of death in battling cancer and emerged strong, wise and with a legendary status at the top of the musical mount Olympus. To see him and to hear these treasures is a rare privilege indeed.
At Cerritos Prine was in tip-top shape, singing with power and amazing stamina, indeed giving the rabid fans in the hall almost two dozen of his best. Opening with “Spanish Pipedream” and “Picture Show” he had the audience singing along in the first ten minutes. Then, the chestnuts just tumbled out of his rich satchel of songs including “Souvenirs,” “Grandpa Was a Carpenter,” “Far from Me,” “Fish and Whistle,” “Glory of True Love” and “Crazy as a Loon.” Each was unique and while simple in tone, remarkably deep in meaning. Not content to just showcase his words Prine put a ribbon on this package with lead guitarist Jason Wilber who made the sound textured and colorful beyond even the original recordings. Wilber, with his clean-cut appearance and unreal dexterity re-defined guitar solos on many an occasion during the show.
There was a sort of masterpiece middle of the concert when “Angel from Montgomery,” “Illegal Smile,” “Please Don’t Bury Me,” “Sam Stone,” and “That’s the Way That the World Goes Round” captivated the howling crowd but the real tour de force of the whole evening was his brilliant reading of the epochal “Jesus, the Missing Years.” Prine got out the electric guitar for some stronger stuff but “Great Rain” and “She is My Everything” gave way to a finishing kick of the lovely “Lake Marie” and the wonderfully optimistic and poignant “Blue Umbrella” that is quintessential Prine. In every possible way this evening was triumphant for John Prine and the fans that stayed in their seats roaring for their hero way past the last notes sung. Only a crazy man with an iron sense of self would want to open shows for a living legend in front of a hall of Prine fanatics but Dan Reeder is all of that. The clever, occasionally profane, musically skilled and sometimes hilarious gentleman won the Prine-iacs over almost immediately. Plucked from obscurity by O-Boy Records and John Prine, Reeder has developed a following with his offbeat humor and unique songs. Among the near dozen songs in the set, Reeder really shone on “Clean Elvis,” “I Drink Beer” “No One Will Laugh,” and the very sweet “Beautiful” that demonstrated his serious side. However, the real fun came with two songs whose titles can’t be discussed in a family newspaper but will be on my Ipod soon.