By Chuck Cox
Whenever I put together a big sports road trip, I also try to squeeze in a concert. It doesn’t always work out, but when I was planning last weekend’s Oregon extravaganza (I saw Oregon State and Oregon football games on Saturday), I saw that Steve Earle and the Dukes were playing a show in Seattle on Sunday night.
Going to see Earle meant I would get back to Portland about four hours before my flight on Monday morning, but he is one of my absolute favorites. And I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I also thought it would also be pretty cool to be able to say I saw a show in Seattle, one of several music Meccas in the United States.
It worked out that the Seattle Mariners were also playing their final game of the season at home on Sunday afternoon, so I caught a rather chilly baseball game before heading to the show. The venue was, in a word, amazing. The Neptune reminded me a lot of the Granada Theater, only a little bit smaller. It’s also located on the University of Washington campus and has a record store in the basement. How cool is that? Like the Granada, it’s also a former movie theater.
It’s also general admission, and I was able to grab a seat on the front row. Texas husband-and-wife duo The Mastersons opened the show with a solid 30-minute set. I liked their music quite a bit, but they also ripped into the state of Texas, which is a pretty rock-solid way to get me to not like your group right off the bat. “We’re from Texas, but don’t hold that against us,” was one of the snide comments I personally could have done without. But Eleanor Whitmore, who hails from Denton, had an angelic voice and was a fantastic musician. Her husband Chris Masterson is also a marvelous player.
Finally, it was time for the man. Earle, who opened with three straight tracks from his fantastic new The Low Highway album — “Low Highway,” “21st Century Blues,” and “Calico County.” He ended up playing nearly the entire album, but he also worked in some live staples spanning his entire career. At one point, he hit us with three straight classics — “Someday,” “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road.” But everything Earle played, whether new or old, sounded magnificent. He also did some cool cover songs, including “Wild Thing” and The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag,” for the late Levon Helm.
The Mastersons also played with the Dukes, which showed off the duo’s talents. The other two members of the band, Kelly Looney and Will Rigby, did one song each off their solo efforts.
Earle played for more than two hours, which included two encores. Both he and the crowd were very into the show for the duration. And even though it meant a long drive afterward, I was so glad I decided to go. I have been seeing Earle play live since 1995. This was my seventh Earle show, and the fourth different state I’ve seen him play in. He’s definitely one of those guys I will see any time he rolls through. Speaking of, Earle will bring the tour to the Granada on Oct. 19. I highly recommend checking it out.