In John We Trust

John Prine. At the Arlington Theatre, Saturday, October

Reviewed by Derek Svennungsen

John-Prine-Web.jpgIf Bob Dylan is roots music’s king (and
he is), and Lucinda Williams is the queen (and she may be), then
John Prine is the royal court’s jester. He’s the funny-looking,
croak-voiced joker whose job it is to entertain, moralize, and
satirize all at the same time.

And when you’re in an audience watching this 60-year-old roll
through his repertoire of songs that are at one moment
heart-breaking and the next ebullient, you feel like the kingdom
would be just fine, if not a good sight better, if he were running
the show.

After a menial opening from Jim James of My Morning Jacket
“fame” — a bit of a stretch if you ask me — Prine and his two
bandmates, all clad in sharp suits, dove into 35 years’ worth of
material. Prine’s songs, as his fans know, are all carved from his
glorious, inexhaustible rock style. “Hello in There” from 1972
coheres perfectly with 2005’s “Taking a Walk,” which is in sonic
cahoots with 1991’s “Love & Happiness.” And there is just so
much comfort in Prine’s sound; each song is a cocoon, a refuge.

To the appreciative crowd’s delight, Prine jigged a couple of
times. He sang everyone’s personal favorites (including my
three-year-old son’s, a DeMent-less “In Spite of Ourselves”) and
deadpanned his way through nearly two hours of anti-classic
classics. His gravelly voice — Prine overcame throat
cancer — stamped every lyric and every song with authority and
authenticity. Unlike Dylan’s lyrical abstruseness or Williams’s
dourness, Prine, in his jester’s role, encouraged us to celebrate
life’s absurdities and revel in both the pain and joy. And for
that, he earned a standing ovation.

More than anything, what is obvious in watching John Prine
perform is that he was absolutely born to play his music for all of
us. The disheveled codger once again pulled off the performer’s
trifecta, leaving his audience entertained, moved, and happy to
have paid lots of money for the tickets. To those not in
attendance, I can only hope that you had some life-or-death
situation that occupied you, and I can only hope that you handled
it with a laugh and a rhyme. As John would.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.