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SWAGGER, NOT STYLE

The worldwide headquarters and hindquarters of freelance writer Chris Klimek

Live Last Night: Los Lonely Boys & Alejandro Escovedo

Chris Klimek

[gallery link="file" columns="2"]There’s no single, foolproof test for diagnosing musical overconfidence, but hiring Alejandro Escovedo as your opener is a definite risk factor. Escovedo is a songwriter’s songwriter, an alt-punk-country-etc. warrior who nearly had to die of Hepatitis C six years to begin to get his due. His albums since have been the most vital of his three-decade career.

Among the acts who covered Escovedo’s songs to help fund his medical care is Los Lonely Boys, a we-play-it-all-and-make-it-look-easy Texas trio comprised of brothers Henry, JoJo, and Ringo Garza, Jr. They kicked off their headlining Acoustic Brotherhood tour at the Birchmere last night with a jovial 105-minute set that left no question as to their musicianship, their showmanship, or their filial fellowship.

Overconfident? Negative. Peddling an all-weather Tex-Mex roots rock that they can morph effortlessly into blues, country, soul, or Tejano music, the Grammy-winning brothers Garza are fluent, intuitive players. Their Beatles cover ("She Came in Through the Bathroom Window") was a persuasive as their Santana cover ("Evil Ways"). Their original songcraft is sturdy, and they can sing, too. They’re like the Eagles, only young, Texan, related, and (one assumes) capable of sharing a limo. Same unimpeachable chops, same lack of urgency. They might be the best bar band in America.

Which is why Escovedo’s eight-song, 45-minute opening set proved more memorable. Accompanied by violinist Susan Voelz — whose John Cale-like playing imbued “Everybody Loves Me” with a pulp novel’s worth of tension — and guitarist David Pulkingham, Escovedo’s expiation of a performance included three from last year’s autobiographical Real Animal disc and two selections from a musical theatre piece he wrote to commemorate his migrant laborer-musician-boxer-baseball player father’s 90th birthday. Escovedo couldn’t match the headliners’ flash and precision, but he had them on raw emotion. His songs felt lived.

This review appears today on Post Rock.