Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Kid In Town

J.D. Souther played Joe's Pub last night. I had practice for the Galapagos show with Balthrop, Alabama tomorrow night, so I couldn't be at the performance, but cousin Laurin and I dropped in to watch the sound-check.

As he was waiting for the sound guys to get ready, Souther sat at the piano and noodled quietly for a while. His phone rang a few times and he stopped playing to talk about the vinyl copies of his new album and where they needed to be shipped and how many of them he needed to sign. Then he turned around on the piano bench, picked up a guitar and played softly to himself, alone up on the stage in the empty room, waiting for all the activity around him to focus on the music.

It was hard not to imagine the long shadow of his career sitting up there on the stage with him. As a founding member of the Eagles, he wrote or co-wrote Heartache Tonight, New Kid In Town, Best Of My Love and a bunch of others, not to mention Her Town Too with James Taylor and his own hit "You're Only Lonely" which is hands down the greatest song Roy Orbison never wrote--and I include Please Please Me in this sweeping statement.

Slowly, his patience began to wear and he walked up to the microphone and played an impromptu version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." The phrasing of the chords was continually unexpected and musical, runs that I expected to ascend, descended in minor keys and Laurin and I found ourselves grinning. He finished the song and looked out to the only other guy down on the floor (who may have been his manager) and said impishly, "Maybe I'll do an entire set of standards and blow all the Eagles fans' minds."

"No one's going to care if he plays like that," I said to Laurin.

The sound-check came and adjustments were made. At one point, unhappy with the lower tones of the sound, Souther completely reworked the settings on his guitar and observed with wry amusement and an edge I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of, "Let me get this straight, I've gotta change the way I play to compensate for the way you're mixing?"

Finally, he left the small stage--he and his big shadow--and gathered his things to go get dinner. And I went off to practice with my best friends and the band I'm in.


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