Photo by Steve Rood
For the final show of his fall run, Jackie Greene played a Sunday in Los Angeles. Repeatedly throughout the evening, Greene showed his appreciation for those that made it out on a “school night.” Yes, there was plenty of elbow-room on the floor of the old theatre, but it was a concentrated, enthusiastic bunch that Greene repaid in both verbal and musical gratitude with a strikingly sharp set of songs that showed this prince of Americana to be equally moving as messenger of soul.
With his Modern Lives five-piece ensemble, Greene entered last onto the stage, banjo in hand. Backed by his drummer ‘Smoke’ Lucas and percussionist Megan Coleman both on cajon drums, he led the quintet on the opening “Tupelo,” then switched to acoustic for the placid folk of “Captain’s Daughter.” The group expanded with the addition of Greene’s three-piece horn section, clad in black, and rifling brassy lines through “I’m So Gone.” Under a background of projected Bill Plympton animation, the band tackled the title track from Greene’s latest two-volume set, “Modern Lives,” asking plainspoken questions of the government.
After rambling through “Gone Wanderin’,” and his folk-touched harmonica whines, Greene switched strings again, to a resonator guitar for the percussive rock of “I Don’t Live in a Dream,” splitting the vocals with keyboardist and musical director of the group, Shannon Sanders. Greene made more use of the horns, drawing the spirit of James Brown on “Doin’ It to Death,” then rode on a repeating figure on his nod to the locale, “Hollywood.”
He sat at the keyboard with Sanders for the ballad “Hallelujah,” and formed a trio with bassist Ben Rubin on upright and his longtime guitarist Nate Dale on “Shaken.” Treating the crowd to a brand new number, Greene peeled off a greasy Delta blues riff, bending beautifully as the horn men snapped fingers in time on “Crazy Comes Easy,” before the final blustery rock-and-roll pairing of “Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind,” and “Like a Ball and Chain,” brought the show to a steamy finish.
The nine returned for a lengthy encore, shifting the Jerry Garcia classic “Sugaree” from gently loping to soul crackling, pleasing the vocal contingent of gratefuls scattered in the mass. It was a magnificent version, perhaps even a winking thank-you to the fans, showcasing Greene’s impassioned voice and inspired guitar work. There’s a reason why Sunday shows should not be missed.