Cowboy Junkies deliver memorable performance

A review of Cowboy Junkies at the Somerville Theatre on March 8, 2012

, Staff Writer

Not content to rest on their laurels, Cowboy Junkies set themselves to the arduous task of recording four albums in 18 months. Known as the Nomad series, the four discs cover a wide musical range, including an entire album devoted to Vic Chestnutt covers. The final album of the series, The Wilderness, was released earlier this year, and the band has taken their show on the road. Cowboy Junkies stopped by Somerville and provided an evening of absolutely wonderful music, filled with songs that spanned the band’s entire career. As it turns out, they’ve still got the same appeal they held more than 20 years ago.

The show opened with “Sing In My Meadow”, the title track of the third Nomad disc. Cowboy Junkies immediately established the pace of the evening with this tune, thanks in no small part to Margo Timmins wonderful voice. Throughout the entire show, she would show off her dynamic and impressive vocal range. Somehow, she has managed to avoid fatiguing her voice in spite of recording four albums in such a short period of time, and grabbed everyone’s attention right from the get-go. The song featured a bit of a lull that allowed Michael Timmins to dip into a short guitar solo. Meanwhile, Peter Timmins laid down a simple but effect backbeat on the drums. “Sing In My Meadow” definitely started the evening off on the right foot, and the show would only continue upwards from there.

Cowboy Junkies continued with “Wrong Piano”, the first Vic Chestnutt cover of the show. It was musically similar to the opener, though perhaps a little less raucous. However, the next song, “West of Rome”, another Chestnutt cover, was when the band really started to shine. A slower tune, “Rome” gave Margo the opportunity be a little more intimate with her voice. Backed by jangling cymbals and an acoustic guitar, the song sounded almost like an effigy for Chestnutt.

After starting slowly, the band went to the complete opposite end of the spectrum with “3rd Crusade”, which may be one of Cowboy Junkies’ most rocking songs. Michael’s guitar was nice and dirty throughout this one, and, as usual, Margo led the charge with her confident and intriguing vocals.

Margo was an excellent hostess throughout the evening. She introduced several of the songs very well and assured fans that they’d get the favorite they were looking for, but first they’d have to listen to some new material. Naturally, members of the audience were more than happy to oblige as the band dedicated much of the show’s first half to Nomad covers. However, a few legacy tunes were thrown in for the adoring crowd including a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake”, which was kept simple with vocals and guitars.

A cheer rose as the band settled calmly into the opening chords of “Sweet Jane”. Orginally recorded by the Velvet Underground, it may be Cowboy Junkies’ most beloved track. It’s a much more somber take on the tune, but one that works perfectly with Cowboy Junkies’ aesthetic. Margo hasn’t lost her ability to perform the tune at all, if anything, she arguably sounds better now than she did when she first recorded it nearly 25 years ago.

From there, Cowboy Junkies settled into a slew of old favorites. “A Common Disaster” went over quite nicely as well, as did “Working On A Building” off their sophomore album, The Trinity Session. “I’m So Open” was uplifting and helped the audience settle into the end of the evening before the band ended their main set with “Misguided Angel”, a perfect selection given its reflective and slow tempo.

Cowboy Junkies returned for a quick two-song encore, ending the night with “Fuck, I Hate the Cold”. It was a suitable ending to what had been a fantastic show.

While many bands of the 80’s and 90’s are more than happy to sit back and play their hits from decades past nowadays, Cowboy Junkies have taken the complete opposite approach to their career trajectory. In fact, they’ve recorded a tremendous amount of new material in a relatively short time. On stage, they haven’t lost their touch at all, approaching performance with a knowledge that only comes from years of touring and performing.

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