Photo by Dino Perrucci
Anders Osborne, The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA- 11/11
The reputation of the Troubadour was built in the 1970s, literally, on the troubadour; hosting the likes of singer-songwriter legends such as James Taylor, Carole King, and Tom Waits. In more recent years, the famed West Hollywood venue has adapted with the changes, regularly showcasing in its rustic and compressed confines mostly alt-rock guitar bands. On Anders Osborne’s March visit to the club, he came equipped with one of his heavier outfits, the room shuttering with the force of his overdriven, twin-guitar hurricane. His autumnal return however, just Osborne and his acoustic guitar, marked a flashback to that ‘70s heyday and an introspective appearance by a modern-day master singer-songwriter.
Osborne spent all of the 80-minute performance seated in a comfortable office chair set low to the stage, swiveling at times to dial in the amp behind him or call up lyrics with a finger’s touch on the mounted iPad in front. Wearing glasses, he looked almost professorial, opening with a sweet “Every Bit of Love,” then shifting to the chunky “Fool’s Gold,” off his latest release, Flower Box. A beautifully slow rendition of “Coming Down” followed, Osborne filling in spaces with high-pitched falsetto wails and ad-libbed sonic expressions.
He tried out a new song, working through verses he admitted he wasn’t committed to yet, before the descending notes of “Life Don’t Last That Long” from this year’s Spacedust and Ocean Views. It was five songs in before the Osborne fire came out, strumming with turbidity on “Big Talk” only to pull it back to a hush for a gentle fade out. The Troubadour’s intimacy can be daunting, if not distracting, but Osborne handled the encroaching, repeated shouts of song requests, and even a crowd member playing harmonica, with loose and accepting tact.
Reminiscent of his time with the Southern Soul Assembly, Osborne told a few stories as introductions, but mainly kept the songs flowing. Favorite “Back on Dumaine” led to “Annabel,” and that anonymous harmonica, into a restrained “Burning Up Slowly.” Then, a blues, with Osborne this time calling out for the unknown harmonica, chuckling, “Wrong key, but it’s in there,” as the two searched for harmony. The title track of the new album and a yearning “I’m Ready” closed, only to see Osborne re-emerge for an encore of “Ash Wednesday Blues” and a granted audience request for the darkening finale, “Peace.”
While he’s always been a songwriter first, grasping the delicate details of hardships and of love, mostly in, and for, New Orleans, lately he has been emphasizing musically his mounting electric guitar prowess and an equally combustible band. In a sense, this performance and tour could be called Osborne’s Southern Solo Assembly. Hearing him take songs that thunder on record and vitalize them simply with the pauses and breaths of his rich and ragged voice and shimmering acoustic shows Anders Osborne, once again, to be a unique and versatile talent of both power and finesse.