Live Review

The Party Started Early With The Turnpike Troubadours

The Turnpike Troubadours with The Bottle Rockets on March 16, 2018

Friday night the streets of downtown Cleveland were alive with the NCAA wrestling tournament and a calm before the storm of the next day’s St. Patrick’s Day parade shenanigans. Inside the House of Blues, the faithful packed the concert hall for one of their favorite bands, The Turnpike Troubadours, as they finish up this leg of their A Long Way From Your Heart tour.

I maneuvered my way through the sea of people to my favorite vantage point in the left corner of the stage. From there not only can I have an unobstructed view of the stage, but I can see fans hugging the security barrier and up into the balcony. It has been a while since I have attended a show with more than 350 in attendance, so to see 1,200 folks singing along with a ton of energy and smiles were as entertaining as the show for this writer. Some fans traveled from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana to attend the show in this somewhat intimate venue before the boys begin the summer festival circuit.

Opening the show with “The Housefire”, acoustic guitarist and lead singer Evan Felker fed off the love with a wonderful animated stage presence.  The rest of the ensemble was on fire with Hank Early (pedal steel and accordion), Ryan Engleman (lead guitarist), Gabriel Pearson (drums), R.C. Edwards (bass), and Kyle Nix (fiddle) blazing through an 18-song set.  After “The Mercury,” the Troubadours delved into several tracks off their 2010 LP Diamonds & Gasoline, with “Shreveport,” “1968,” “Every Girl,” “7&7,” “Kansas City Southern,” “Long Hot Summer Day,” and a gorgeous rendition of the title track with Early on steel guitar matched with only Felker’s acoustic. Interspersed songs included their Great Plains jangly country rock staples “Good Lord Lorrie,” “Morgan Street,” “and “Before the Devil Know’s We’re Dead” from Goodbye Normal Street, and the only other selection from their self-titled album was “Bossier Street." Their fans ate it up, knowing so many songs by heart and grooving to the music gave off a wonderful vibe. Glasses and tall boys were raised when Edwards walked toward center stage to sing “Drunk, High, and Loud,” co-written with Jonny Burke, and suddenly the room filled with a sweet aroma of sansimian. Strangely, the only other songs from the new record performed were “Pipe Bomb Dream,” “Pay No Rent,” and the lone encore number “A Tornado Warning.”  As the houselights came on, I headed to the exit to find concertgoers swarming the merch table some ten yards deep for souvenirs.

Opening for the Troubadours on this leg of the tour were The Bottle Rockets. The 25-year veterans of the road commented that they love playing a big stage but know it’s always going to be a shorter set. The band was well received and was given ample time to plow through 12 songs, including two new compositions that will find their way onto a new release later this year. Highlights included “Dog,” “Love Like A Truck,” “Indianapolis,” “Ship It On The Frisco," and their signature song, “$1,000 Car.”