The past two times I had seen Billy Joe, he was in a family setting or on the big stage. But here we were, in a small club amongst no more than a hundred people, getting ready to see one of the best songwriters of the modern era. It was really a treat to see.
The set opened with Billy Joe taking the stage by himself to play "Star In My Heart." This is always a beautiful song written for his son, Eddy. It's great to see a performer in such a pure state as just playing an acoustic guitar all alone.
After he finished "Star In My Heart" and sending a blessing to his son, Billy Joe's whole band kicked in as they played some of the more energetic tracks off of the new album. "Sail Of My Souls" was great. Jessie Taylor's guitar playing set the song on fire. It was great to see this band in a small bar atmosphere and see how well they adapted.
Billy Joe was in rare form on this night, he was posing for people who came to the front of the stage to take pictures and he told stories to everyone....hell, he even told everyone about his dogs. He was dressed down a bit, which the dog story told about. He left his garment bag at home after tending to his puppies, so he was left with some of his more worn clothes. This really added to the feel.
This night was especially fun because they played two sets. They tore through the first set of the new tracks with a few older ones thrown in. It was a fun mixture, but the next half of the set was the key. As Shaver stated, "The next set is for all you sinners."
As the first set came to a close, the band went into "The Earth Rolls On." Shaver put forth an emotional, powerful rendition of this track about moving on after someone dies. As the band went into the outro, Shaver got off the stage, hugged people and shook hands. He then spent the next half hour walking around taking pictures with people, talking, and just being with his fans. It's something you rarely see from artists today, the willingness to mingle with their listeners. Billy Joe Shaver is just a man in the end, and he knows it.
The second set began with a song dedicated to his late wife, "Hearts A Bustin'." It was a sweet song that he played all by himself just like he did at the beginning of the first set.
Once again the rest of the band took the stage and they went into their dancing songs, during which Shaver informed us "God loves you when you dance!" It was lot of fun, they played "Georgia On A Fast Train" and many others. We also heard "Ragged Old Truck" which Shaver gave us the entire story behind. It was amazing to see someone be so honest and tell you about a near suicide and how he wrote the song instead of ending his life.
Another theme of the second set was rememberance of an Ooze Brother who passed away. Billy Joe was particularly fond of them because they did a version of "Old Chunk Of Coal" that was called "I'm Just An Old Piece Of Shit, But I'll Be A Fossil Someday." Billy Joe has a good sense of humor and a way of remembering people he liked.
This show was phenomenal. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend a Friday night. I can honestly say I will try to never miss another Billy Joe Shaver set for as long as he and I are on this earth at the same time.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.