I'm not sure what it says about an artist that they'll play three shows in one day ... or that he'll play a better show for an audience that paid nothing than those who cough up $25 for the privilege. But whatever it means, I kinda like it -- and especially when we're talking about the extraordinary singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo. (Earlier this year, I did an in-depth Q&A with Escovedo.) On Monday, his first stop in Pittsburgh was an on-air performance at WYEP, followed by two intimate shows at Club Café that evening. Even by the late show's finale, Escovedo hardly seemed to break a sweat, though his lead guitarist, sucking down a cigarette and chatting afterward outside Club Café, was feeling the burn.
Escovedo's set included material familiar to anyone who caught him at the Three Rivers Arts Festival this summer: songs from his excellent 2008 release Real Animal, selections from his dramatic work By the Hand of the Father, and the odd cover song -- in this case, a taste of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and a rousing rendition of Neil Young's "Powderfinger." Notably absent at Club Café were the string section and the poignant introductions Escovedo had offered with various songs that added considerable drama to his TRAF date. With just drums, bass and guitars backing him, his set was direct and to-the-point -- a bit less nuanced than I expected, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Speaking of extraordinary singer-songwriters with punky roots, don't miss Jonathan Richman, formerly of the Modern Lovers, tonight at Mr. Small's. If you've never seen Richman before, expect playful yet bittersweet odes to boyfriends and girlfriends -- possibly sung in Spanish -- and tales of somewhat moody sensitive boys trying to enjoy life's simple pleasures ... with some of Jonathan's exuberant dance routines thrown into the mix. If you're smart, you'll take a special friend to this show.