REM to John Prine: 40 Years of Lexington’s Great Musical Shows


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Have you ever seen Alejandro Escovedo on Lynagh, like that 2002 show? Walter Tunis has such a show on his list of favorites from 40 years of covering the Lexington music scene.


It’s time to downsize. Last week, your sympathetic neighborhood music critic confessed to being a fossil and presented a list of his favorite shows in arenas and big venues from his 40 years of writing with the Herald-Leader.

We conclude the extended look back this week with a second list. This is devoted to smaller delicacies, that is, concerts that take place in clubs, theaters and smaller venues.

The dynamics of this kind of performance differ, of course, from arena outings. They are much more immediate, speaking much more of a direct sense of compromise between artist and audience than with what takes place in large venues.

That said, what struck me once this list was completed was that it unwittingly covered 10 shows from 10 different venues in Lexington. Over half of these have been gone for some time, highlighting how distinctive the atmospheres in the room are and how integral they are to the overall appeal and thrill factor of the room. ‘a performance.

So here’s a look at some of the best music from some of the most intimate concerts Lexington has hosted over the past four decades. May we enjoy these kinds of experiences again very soon.

The English rhythm / REM

April 8, 1983 – University of Kentucky Student Center Ballroom

Just a few months before going their separate ways (the first time), the English Beat unveiled their working-class mix of rock, reggae, soul and ska. On record, Beat’s songs were socially inclined reflections of their Birmingham roots. On stage, however, they exploded with joyful rhythmic and vocal color. The opening was a band that no one had heard of (by the time) – a young quartet from Athens, Georgia, full of dense vibe and akin to a session called REM

Roy Buchanan

August 27, 1985 – Breeding

A series of tours from the mid-1980s renewed Lexington with Buchanan’s monstrous guitar sound. This 1985 date at Breeding’s New Circle Road location was the first of the lot. Almost withdrawn on stage, Buchanan’s playing reflected a milder blues language on his trademark tune, “The Messiah Will Come Again,” but also picked up like a jackhammer when the occasion demanded it. Sadly, Buchanan committed suicide in 1988, when his career was experiencing a rebirth.

The Ramones

January 20, 1989 – Strass

I could be wrong, my research indicates that this was the only show the Ramones ever performed in Lexington. It happened almost 15 years after the rest of the country discovered a punk sound that relied more on crude music economics than revolt. That the concert (one of the last of the group with bassist Dee Dee Ramone) took place in Rhinestones, then a trendy country hangout, might have seemed odd. Still, the Ramones made it their rock ‘n’ roll property for the night

Beethoven / Syd Straw motorhome

October 15, 1989 – The Wrocklage

It was part of a week of club shows hosted by a very young WRFL-FM at Wrocklage, Short Street’s favorite haunt for alternative and local acts. Headliner Camper Van Beethoven was great, but singer Straw’s opening set set the night on fire. With a band that included guitarist Dave Alvin and X drummer DJ Bonebrake, Straw offered a combustible mix of roots, punk, and pop intelligence.

Lucinda williams

March 31, 1993 – Kentucky Theater

In an acoustic duo concert with guitarist Gurf Morlix, Williams presented a set of raw folk reflections, deeply southern in narrative “(” Crescent City, “” Pineola “) but extremely mundane in their emotional reach (” Sweet Old World ”,“ Six Blocks Away ”) with a solid blues-inspired base. It was the first performance in the long series of Troubadour concerts.

Lucinda Williams performed to a full house at the Lexington Opera House in 2001. A performance at the Kentucky Theater was one of Walter Tunis’s favorites for 40 years on the Lexington music scene. MARC CORNELISON LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Alejandro Escovedo

June 27, 1996 – Lynagh’s Music Club

scovedo, a leading vocal stylist amidst a fertile Austin, Texas scene, made his Lexington debut with a sold-out performance ranging from chamber-type folk works accented by violin and cello to the electric rock ‘n’ roll reflecting an equal interest in glam and punk. It was a fascinating stylistic mix, which led to frequent Lexington concerts over the next two decades.

Old Crow Medicine Show with David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

February 24, 2004 – The Lady

On the very day of the release of their groundbreaking album “OCMS”, Old Crow Medicine Show performed on The Dame’s Main Street stage as a stranger. A mix of pre-bluegrass string musicality, Prohibition-era inspired songs, and an indefatigable performance drive quickly won over skeptics. As a bonus, two buddies joined in the second set – David Rawlings on guitar and Folk Empress Gillian Welch, the latter playing a standing drums.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell

October 18, 2015 – Lexington Opera House

Harris has recorded considerable concert time in Lexington, but no visit has been as solemn as this touring closing performance with one of his early collaborators, Texan composer Rodney Crowell. Almost four decades had passed since the two had performed together in Harris’ famous Hot Band, so the sense of camaraderie was very strong as they dug into songs by Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt and , of course, Crowell.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

September 17, 2010 – Buster’s

My favorite part of that thrilling performance was his tee shot. After leaving the stage after a vintage, but barely antique-flavored soul set with her band Dap-Kings, the exuberant Miss Jones leaned back from the left curtain of the stage to give the audience one last smile. electric. It’s also the image that stuck with me after learning of Jones’ death from cancer in 2016 – the profile of a cheerful artist madly in love with her music.

John Prine / Amanda Shires with Jason Isbell

June 26, 2015 – Center singular des arts

Prine’s last performance in Lexington was sort of a festival of intergenerational love. A heavily pregnant Shires offered the biggest surprise by performing her entire set with an unannounced accompanist – her husband Jason Isbell. The two then moved in and out of Prine’s set, triggering a series of duets and trio tracks that everyone was happy to hear. Prine beamed. It was like watching former students drink to their favorite teacher.

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