The final night of the legendary acts’ August joint touring run enchanted a sold-out crowd Sunday at Meijer Gardens. The review and photos at Local Spins.
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There’s a world of haunting melancholy in Emmylou Harris’ music – told in arresting fashion by means of an epochally striking voice.
It’s there in the sad tales of “Red Dirt Girl,” “Raise the Dead” and “My Name is Emitt Till” and in her poignant renderings of gems by Gillian Welch (“Orphan Girl”) and Merle Haggard (“Kern River”).
But as the capacity crowd at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park learned on Sunday night, there’s also a world of hopefulness and joy in Harris’ musical message, something enhanced mightily by the ever-lively and upbeat presence of the equally legendary Los Lobos.
“If you’re happy, you just want to be happy,” Harris pointed out early on. “But if you’re sad, you have to write sad songs.”
While the pairing of these veteran acts – the final night of a joint, four-night August run – might at first seem like a musical take on “The Odd Couple,” Sunday’s performances proved this as a move of genius, even on the hottest, most humid night of the summer.
With Los Lobos launching it all with its intoxicating mix of rock, blues, Tex-Mex and more, the stage was set for a buoyant evening piloted by masters of their craft (even though Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo was missing, due to the birth of his grandchild).
Los Lobos uncorked revelry that ranged from a medley that melded “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” “I Can’t Understand” and Santana’s “Oye Como Va” (written by Tito Puente) to Doug Sahm’s “She’s About a Mover,” which the band pumped out for its encore. At one point, a Tex-Mex couplet of tunes unleashed in Spanish had a flock of dancers twirling polka-wise along the wings of the stage.
While sound glitches marred Harris’ opening song, “Here I Am,” the PA finally kicked in before the end of the tune and Harris made sure that fans were satiated, following up with the poignant “Organ Girl,” “Wishing Well,” “Two More Bottles of Wine” and “Red Dirt Girl.”
“We’ll get this right. We’re professionals you know,” Harris said. “There’s no problem with the weather and no problem with the audience.”
There also was absolutely no problem with Harris’ expansive set list or her ultra-talented band, with Red Dirt Boys standouts Phil Madeira on keyboards, Will Kimbrough on guitar, Bryan Owings on drums, Chris Donohue on bass and Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle.
Harris’ set list ranged from a striking a cappella rendition of “Bright Morning Stars” to the classic, “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” which closed out the evening.
“I’m so happy we’re all together again,” Harris gushed at one point, though she conceded her voice was straining as the evening progressed.
Indeed. At 74, Harris remains relevant, graceful and audience-inspiring. (Shame on those who left this show early: You were in the presence of musical royalty.)
As she crooned during “One of These Days,” a song by Earl Montgomery sung by George Jones that Harris debuted back in 1976: “I might someday walk across this land … goin’ cross the country, singin’ loud as I can.”
Fans can all be thankful that she’s still doing just that.
PHOTO GALLERY: Emmylou Harris, Los Lobos at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Kendra Petersen-Kamp