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David Lindley’s gots licks, jokes.

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Friday night, legendary guitarist David Lindley played an early show at Harlow's night club.

I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn't known Mr. Lindley from Adam until a couple weeks ago when I received a note mentioning that Sacramento Press Editor-in-Chief David Watts Barton had suggested me, personally, for coverage.

D.W.B.'s recommendation was good enough for me. The man knows his music (even if he doesn't grok the Grateful Dead: blasphemy where I'm from). I agreed to cover the show without knowing a single thing about Lindley, or having heard a single note of his music.

A cursory glance at the YouTubes produced this, which was all I needed to see before concluding I'd made the right choice.

A cursory glance at his website reinforced the notion. The list of men and women with whom he's collaborated reads like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame co-ed softball team: Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Graham Nash, Warren Zevon, Dolly Parton, Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor. . . I could keep going.

I arrived at Harlow's about 10 minutes after the 7:30 listed start time, having forgotten that even though an 8 p.m. start time means the show will start closer to 8:45 p.m., a 7:30 p.m. start actually means, a 7:30 p.m. start.

When I walked in, Pieta Brown was already on stage, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar and a lone microphone. Harlow’s was fairly packed. With it being an early show, the dance floor was chaired and tabled and fully peopled with folks enjoying the show from the comfort of their seats. A strikingly statuesque brunette, Pieta held the crowd’s rapt attention with her uniquely haunting voice and alt-folk-Americana sensibilities. 

As I approached the bar to grab a PBR, I got to take in the second half of her song, "Rolling Down the Track." 

At the end of the first entire song that I was privy to, "Closing Time," as the applause died down, a woman's voice rang out from the crowd, "You're awesome!" she said, and the applause rose up again.

"Thank you," the singer responded gratefully, before resuming her set.

She played until 8 p.m. on the button, with each song receiving as enthusiastic applause as could be hoped for from a 98 percent-seated audience. When she left the stage, she received a partial standing ovation, but quite a few of them were multitasking as they headed to the bar or lavatories.

I adjourned to the patio, where I joined a few smokers who were discussing what we'd just seen and, more importantly, what we were about to see. 

When I admitted that I'd never seen Lindley in concert, and had only recently found out that he existed at all, one fellow castigated me lightly: "Man, he's a legend. You've never heard Jackson Browne's version of ‘Cocaine’?"

Another gentleman regaled me with a story of catching Jackson Browne at the OG Mountain Aire festival in the early 1980s. I think he said Night Ranger opened.

The consensus was that I was in for a treat.

At 8:18, the man himself took the stage, bracketed on three sides by all manner of stringed instruments. I'm pretty sure one of them was the taken directly from Whoville. A "FloomFloggle," I believe it was called.

I'm pretty sure the only time I'd seen another one was in the “Star Wars” cantina.

He opened with a track that I could only describe as Gaelic classical. He called it an old fife and banjo tune.

At the completion of the first tune, he began a running, quite funny, banter with the crowd.

The dude's got a quirky sense of humor, and it was on display nearly as much as his prodigious musical talent.
"I used to play at Disneyland . . . That's where I learned to drink." he said, pausing to let the thought sink in.
"Underneath the Matterhorn." The audience laughed, and a good-length pause followed.
"Oh shit, what's that smell? People getting high . . . running the Matterhorn," he said, slowly.

He reached to grab his next instrument, this one a fairly traditional guitar.

"Shouldn't have said that," he said with a laugh before beginning his next tune, a masterfully fingerpicked version of Levon Helm's "The Poor old Dirt Farmer."


"I'd like to follow an old Blues tradition, and sing you a drug song" he announced to the crowd before his next tune. "This is a drug many of us know and love . . . Excedrin."

The song was called "Little Green Bottle."  The crowd ate it up.

Through the course of the evening, he probably used eight to 10 different guitars (Instruments? I’m not sure if they were all technically guitars), both lap and traditional.

Up next, a song by 1950s Greenwich New York folk quartet The Weavers called "State of Arkansas."

A question shot out from the audience – "Are you still crazy bout your Mercury?" – caused Lindley to go into a stellar Jimmy Stewart impression. (I admit I thought for a second he was giving us a Nixon. They kind of sound alike).

He followed this with, what else, a Ben Harper lap steel track, "Well, Well, Well."

He continued his "If it didn't work so well, I'd wonder where the Hell he comes up with this stuff" set with the Bruce Springsteen classic "Brothers under the Bridge."
It’s a great song, but also a great song to eat a gun to. He astutely chose to lighten the mood on his next ditty, his last of the set.
The next track, "When a Guy Gets Boobs (It don't look so good),” was just what the doctor ordered.

"He's funny as hell," offered the gentleman sitting at the table to my right, and I wasn't gonna argue with him. Even though man boobs are a medical condition, not a laughing matter, and I don't make fun of your gout, do I?

All right, I guess man boobs are kinda funny.

To raucous applause, he left the stage at 9:24 p.m., only to return to stage at . . . 9:24 p.m. He's been around too long to put on airs.

He encored with "Revenge will Come" by Southern California-based singer/songwriter Greg Copeland.

It was an incredibly eclectic and wonderfully performed set, if a bit subdued. And though I generally gravitate toward shows with active dance floors, I was able to more than make up for the lack thereof at the early show with some late night buffoonery at Momo's upstairs. I love Harlow's.

   

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