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No matter the style, Alejandro Escovedo proves versatile

Fitzgeralds, Berwyn, Ill., April 5, 2008

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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Whatever the setup - rock band, full orchestra, solo - it works just fine for Alejandro Escovedo, whose haunting, singular voice is quite enough to rope an audience. On this night, an early acoustic show done by 8:30 p.m., Escovedo was ably accompanied by guitarist David Pulkingham, as the two men dealt out moments of subtle beauty and dissonant guitar fury alike.

Quite a few songs from Escovedo's upcoming Back Porch album, "Real Animal," due out June 10, were performed. Escovedo classified "Real Animal" as a "rock album" and explained that it would serve as a journey through his life and musical experiences from punk rocker to solo artist and in between. Chuck Prophet co-wrote and played on many of the songs on the album.

Escovedo was charming in concert as he quickly traced his life from his birth in San Antonio, Texas, to growing up in Huntington Beach, Cal., where in the 1960s he was one of the state's few Mexican surfers ("A lot of people thought I was Hawaiian," helping him to not be beaten up) and becoming a lifelong music fan through attending shows at The Golden Bear. As a student in San Francisco, he sought to film a movie about the "worst band in the world" and ended up forming The Nuns as a result. The band opened for the Sex Pistols, which Escovedo compared to getting a haircut ("not a big deal at all"). He soon after lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City during the "Sid and Nancy days" before eventually forming Rank and File and later the True Believers and settling in Austin.

"Swallows of San Juan" and "Sister Lost Soul," which he dedicated to the late former Gun Club leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce, were among the standout new songs. He and Pulkingham quickly rolled through many old favorites such as "Velvet Guitar," "I Was Drunk" and "Castanets" much to the approval of the sold out crowd.

One of the night's highlights was an especially tender cover of Mott the Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother," which the duo traveled to the back of the venue to perform with truly goosebump results. Escovedo ended the fast moving show with a delightfully ragged take on The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Pushing 60, Escovedo remains an unmatched and versatile force as an artist and performer.