–By Keith Brake
John Prine, where should we begin? The Grammy he won in 1991? The fact he broke onto the folk scene in 1971 and is still relevant today? Or should we just simply start with the title “Musical Icon”? St. Louis was lucky to have Mr. Prine make a stop while on tour, accompanied by Amanda Shires and a couple of very notable special guests.
Amanda Shires took the stage to start the evening accompanied by her husband, and fellow musician, Jason Isbell. Amanda’s music is a very pure sound, and a very nice mixture of folk and country. The performance was intimate as there was only Amanda and Jason with no other accompaniment. The mixture of these two talented vocalist/musicians is powerful and it is obvious they share a connection beyond the stage. At moments it seemed as if the two were performing for one another as well as the packed Peabody Opera House. Amanda’s voice is strong and clear and she has the ability to use extremely unique inflection that sets her apart from other vocalists and garners undivided attention. Jason supported his wife with backup vocals, harmonies and acoustic guitar. The couple played a very strong version of “You are My Home”, and I considered that to be the highlight of the opening set.
John took the stage and received a very warm welcome from the crowded room. Everyone made themselves comfortable and settled in for what was to be an hour and thirty minute set of pure gold. Those in attendance were of all ages, as I stated earlier John Prine’s music is still relevant today so thinking this was to be a retiree gathering would be a mistake.
The atmosphere in the room was a mixture of anticipation, reverence and pure joy. Like Amanda, John’s performance was an intimate one, patrons yelling to “Uncle John” to play their favorite songs, the songs that touched them or the songs that simply made them laugh. Some artists may be taken aback by such things but not the legend that is John Prine, instead he smiled and responded. He and his band fed off of the energy.
The set included music as far back as 1971 from his first album and as recent as his latest “For Better, Or Worse” released in 2016. John has recorded and released twenty three albums in his iconic career and I am certain we heard selections from them all, less his Christmas album.
John was joined on stage by Iris DeMent, and when Iris stepped out the crowd gave her a powerful standing ovation, and she did not disappoint. Iris and John together are pure magic and they performed some tremendous material including “For Better Or Worse”, “We’re Not The Jet Set” and crowd favorite “Inspite of Ourselves”. I can only describe Iris’s vocal style and sound as a mesmerizing and completely unique combination of Dolly Parton and June Carter Cash. Iris and John are long time friends and it certainly shows in their performance, to see these two live on stage in such a setting was truly a memorable experience.
As the end of the set was approaching John was left by himself on stage, and it was everything it should be. One spotlight on the man we were all there to see. He played “Grandpa Was A Carpenter” and a tune that a fan yelled out “Fish And Whistle” John was then joined by his band as well as Amanda and Jason. The evening came to an end with a powerful version of John’s song “Paradise” which brought the crowd to their feet in complete appreciation of the evening and experience.
“John Prine on Tour” stops next in Kansas City, and if you happen to be anywhere near, you will not be disappointed that you stoped to listen. For future dates and all other information visit http://johnprine.com/ .