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Steve Earle, Allison Moorer present a healthy diet of quality music

House of Blues, Anaheim, February 13, 2005

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Before Steve Earle & The Dukes took the stage, the room went dark as Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" played over the house sound system. Naturally, Earle then went straight into "The Revolution Starts...," the title cut from his latest studio CD.

But even in the midst of his post-George W. Bush election blues, the idea of an eventual revolution was never far from his mind. During his set, for instance, he chided this Behind The Orange Curtain audience for being a little slow to join the proposed revolution. He even launched into a hearty take on The Beatles' "Revolution" toward the end of the night.

But while revolution may have been at the forefront of his thinking, the word "revelation" must have been more readily on a lot of the minds in this audience, since Earle's new slim, Adkins Diet-assisted shape was quite the visual revelation.

For those who had a chance to see Earle during his overweight, '70s Elvis-like physique stage, his weight had been a serious concern for Earle fans. While he may have kicked heroin and even survived a prison stay, heart troubles kill more people than all the needles, spoons and barred doors combined. Yet at one point, this trim Earle darted across the stage, just like a teenager enjoying a gig with his first garage band.

Although Earle is quite the prolific one, with oodles of CDs and songs to draw from, he primarily concentrated on the new disc tonight. Selections ranged from the empathy he expressed for the unwilling soldier's fate with "Rich Man's War" to "Condi, Condi," which is his love/lust song to Condeleeza Rice, the recently confirmed Secretary Of State. Earle noted in his intro to it that he still can't explain why he wrote that one.

Earle was ably supported by Eric Ambel, who's become a regular now, on guitar, as well as a bassist, a drummer, a little extra percussion and on occasion, keyboards. He mainly played electric guitar, but also switched to either acoustic or mandolin, and added harmonica blows now and again.

Allison Moorer, who also joined Earle with vocal help during his set later, opened this show with just her own acoustic guitar as accompaniment. But since she has such a powerful vocal presence, one guitar was all she really needed. A few of her songs were simply drop-dead amazing, such as the too-close-to-the bone "Dying Breed," which speaks about how the propensity for death wishes can sometimes run in the family.

"A Soft Place To Fall" only slightly lightened this mood. No doubt, Moorer brings plenty of drama when she comes to play.

Whether it was provided by the newly thin Earle, or the always shapely Moorer, this was most certainly a night that presented a healthy diet of quality music.