LIVE REVIEW: Alejandro Escovedo, James Mastro (04.13.24)

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LIVE REVIEW: Alejandro Escovedo, James Mastro (04.13.24)

(photo credit: Nancy Rankin Escovedo)

“Welcome to our evening of musical…whatever,” the first interaction made with the crowd by Alejandro Escovedo during his stunning performance last Saturday night at the City Winery. Ecovedo’s crowd chanted in glee at this moment, but the crowd wasn’t there to have quippy crowd interaction all night. Not that that kind of show hasn’t been one of my favorites in the past. Believe me, I could listen to some of my favorites wax on with stories interspersed through songs all night. And don’t get me wrong, Escovedo gave plenty of a story-filled moment. However, through the over two and half hours that Escovedo and his incredible band performed, the show’s real star was Escovedo’s visionary performance. 

Before Escovedo took the stage for the night, his bandmate, James Mastro, pulled double duty in performing an opening solo set. Mastro’s roster speaks for itself with time spent with everyone from Ian Hunter and Jesse Malin to The Jayhawks, and likely due to time with all these acts, he wasn’t experiencing his first rodeo at the City Winery in Boston. A room made for acts like Mastro and the now three times running Escovedo at the incredible venue. 

Kicking off the set before he hit one song, Mastro asked, “Who here has never seen Alejandro Escovedo,” as a sea of hands raised. Continued Mastro, “In that case, my name is Alejandro Escovedo,” to a round of laughter from the crowd. His wit shone as he broke into “The Man Who Married the Moon” to kick off his set. A standout for me came quickly after, with “No One Has To Know.” Throughout his brief set, he won the crowd over continuously when running through his set. When introducing “Right Words Wrong Song,” off his latest album, Mastro said, “I like to read. No big deal. I like anything: menus, books.” Mastro ended his set strong with the final track for his latest album, Dawn of a New Era, which dropped in only February of this year, with “River Runs Forever.” Mastro provided the perfect warm-up for the true excellence still coming this evening. 

Mastro quickly made his return to the stage as the crowd roared with excitement. Escovedo strutted his way onto a wave of excitement from the loyal fans that filled up the crowd. Breaking right into it without a word to the crowd, Escovedo kicked off the set with a few moments off his latest release, Echo Dancing. With tracks like “John Conquest” and “Bury Me” hitting within the first few minutes of the set, I felt like I was at a garage band show, and it was giving everything I could have wanted from a Saturday night gig. 

And while a lot of Echo Dancing is guitar-riff heavy, grunge energy, a particularly poignant moment came later on in the set with Escovedo’s heart-breaking performance in “Sensitive Boys,” in dedication to his eldest brother, who had passed just the week before at 96. One of the rare Escovedos who wasn’t a musician but very much an ally and someone Escovedo shared his clear adoration about to the audience. With the crowd already moist around the eyes, he spoke about his brother’s wife, who had left the world before her husband. Before jumping into the incredible aforementioned “Sensitive Boys,” he said, “Maybe they’re dancing to this song at some point.” 

The set list was perfectly curated that evening. After several selections from Echo Dancing, Escovedo jumped into storytelling mode when it came to a section of the set comprised of moments from his 2018 release, The Crossing. After the rowdiness that kicked off the set, Escovedo burst into crowd favorites from the album with “Sonica, USA” and “Teenage Luggage.” The latter spoken about by Escovedo, he spoke about the story behind the song of two teenagers in a record store comparing all the albums they’ve bought, the bands they’ve loved. A brutally gorgeous lyric came for me in “Teenage Luggage” that will stick with me for a while in one of the opening lines, “Looking for America in a record shop.” Another beauty came closer to the end of the song with, “America’s a blood-stain in a honkey tonk kill,” and the perfect song lyrics continued throughout the night. 

Escovedo’s set wasn’t limited to the physical stage he and his band had made their home for the evening. For several tracks, the band ventured into the very much seated venue that is City Winery, but that didn’t stop Escovedo and his lovely band of gents. Starting out at the back of the room, the band transitioned into an acoustic take on “Something Blue” before heading to the middle of the crowd on their traveling journey. At this point, as did opener James Mastro, Escovedo reminisced about the venues he had played during his career in Boston. Alike to Mastro, he spoke about a performance that went down at the legendary venue, The Rat, as well as the Union Square Men’s Bar. The latter was actually a bar that used to be built into a restaurant I worked at for several years when I was younger. As mentioned before too, this show marked Escovedo’s third show at City Winery, and, I believe, the first one in the pandemic after-times. With a cover of Mott The Hoople’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother,” the band moved back to the stage with Escovedo quipping, “Thank you for allowing us to do this,” to which the audience roared back to show their appreciation of course. 

The band brought the energy back up with tracks from across the board, the title track off Echo Dancing, “Deer Head on the Wall,” and, of course, wrapped up the main set with one of his biggest hits, “Castanets.” Prefaced, of course, by Escovedo saying, “This song is about a girl who wanted to play Castenets, but she had no rhythm.” Promptly, Escovedo encouraged the girls to get up and dance, and they did,  as not a soul was sitting down in the room, and it was the perfect ending to a wild two hours that the crowd had been mesmerized for. In typical Escovedo fashion, he concluded with a bang the set with a minute straight of doing the rock star move of straight palm strumming his guitar, which had quite the effect on the room. The woman next to me laughed and went, “What’s he doing after this?” as Escovedo smiled at the crowd and just went, “Good luck in the Marathon”. 

The room definitely wasn’t going to just walk out of that appearance or let the band be done just yet, and after just a minute or two, the band walked back on stage to the shrieks of the audience. With the band adding at least thirty minutes to the already impressive performance, the band barreled through a cover of Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In,” amongst others, and left the room still begging for more. As I said to a friend who works at the venue, “When Alejo calls, you come.” 

Escovedo’s kindness, genuine heart, and clear desire to make a party happen at the show are what have defined his career. It’s what keeps fans coming back and clearly has one of the most loyal followings I’ve ever experienced at a show. Everyone knew each other and as the crowd exited, murmurs about the show were forever present, couples were dancing with each other as they left-it was electric. 

If Alejandro Escovedo has your town on his list, it’s a show that you’ll never regret.

About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.