Yesterday was the cd release for Ruthie's new record, "The Truth According To Ruthie Foster." She came back home to Austin to play 2 shows, one free in-store at Waterloo Records and later that evening at Antone's Blues Club. It was great of her to come back on the day of the release especially since she is touring on the East Coast with NYC the night before and then back to New Jersey the day after Austin.
I sort of hate writing this review because I love Ruthie Foster, especially live.
The Waterloo performance was not a big deal. These are free shows and usually they have an autograph signing and provide free beer, no complaints. It was very late getting started because Ruthie flew in from NYC and the flight was delayed. It was scheduled for 5pm but was almost 6pm before she got there. I felt bad for her. That can't be easy, jumping off a plane, late, stuck in traffic and then flying in the door with your guitar and having to perform...right now! She sucked it up and played 4 or 5 songs and then had to fly right back out the door to get ready for the 8pm Antone's show with her full band.
The Antone's show - first off, Antone's is not my favorite place. It is the premier blues club in town, legendary and one of those places in Austin that tourists always come to. Nothing wrong with that. For me, it's too dirty and the women's restroom is like walking into a cesspool. I will always overlook that stuff if there is somebody I really want to see playing there. Ruthie live is always a rousing, get up off your rear, dancing and singing show, kind of a rock n roll revival. Last night, she didn't have her usual energy. It was a lethargic performance. Granted, Ruthie lethargic, is better than most who are doing their best but when you know how they normally perform and don't come close to that, it's disappointing. Besides the lack of energy there were 2 other issues for me. The pacing of the show was not good. There were too many slow songs played back to back. At one point 3 in a row just about had the whole place back on their heels. Then, she might crack a good up tempo tune and then boom, right back down to a couple of slow ones in a row. The crowd couldn't get anything going with her, I didn't think. The last thing that was bothersome is when she did play one of her great revival rockers like "Travelin Shoes," "Real Love," or "Walk On," they included these marathon jams/solos to the point you couldn't remember what song was even being played. Every song doesn't need an extended sax/organ/bass solo. They played for almost 2 hours but only 13 songs. I know because I have one of the set list copies.
It wasn't all bad. The band was terrific. Joe Silver, this short, little white guy on lead guitar, plays more soulfully than just about anybody I can think of. It's not that he did these killer solos where he was down on the fret, bending strings but wow, he and Ruthie, you would think, have the same blood flowing through their veins. The guy is fantastic with her music.
All in all, yeah, I was disappointed, obviously. But, you can bet the next time Ruthie comes back to Austin, I will be there to see her again. I've seen her a number of times and this show, I'm sure, will be a distant memory.