My boys were back in town playing at a new (for me) venue. The Warsaw in Greenpoint is a walk from the L but close to the G. On the way there I realized that I had forgotten the print out of my receipt or ticket. Usually I buy will call, so I figured my name would be on the list. It was not. The three girls at the box office told me they did not have the capability of looking up my purchase by credit card, so I would have to buy another ticket. I would not mind giving Lucero more of my money (this would be the third time I was seeing them this year and I am going to see them next month) but it was the principle. I had already purchased a ticket and should not have to buy another. They said I could look up my purchase on Ticketweb. The problem is that I have a 100-year-old BlackBerry and cannot look up sites like Ticketweb. I asked to borrow one of their phones and was told they need them for work. And again was told that I would have to buy another ticket. I asked to see a manager and there was some discussion as to who they should get. A man came out – either manager or sound guy or both – and asked what the problem was. I explained everything to him and said I just needed to borrow a phone. He said I could use the desktop at the sound board. Ticketweb showed a purchase for a Lucero ticket from last year. Then I realized I must have bought an early ticket through their website. He suggested I go through my email. Which I did and I finally found the receipt for my purchase and they let me all the way in. There were one or two spots at the stage and I managed to get one on the right side almost in front of the speakers.
A+ customer service to the manager; D- customer service to the girls at the box office, who should have gotten the manager themselves and not have waited until I asked.
The club fits 1000 people and has a Music Hall of Williamsburg vibe. And it’s about twice as big since MHoW’s capacity is 550 (Warsaw does not have a balcony). I heard a security guard tell the person next to me that they sold 600 tickets for the show, so it should not get too crowded or feel uncomfortable. The pre-show music was on point. Springsteen, Steppenwolf, The Edgar Winter Group, Buffalo Springfield, Willie Nelson, Free – all songs that I could sing along with.
Brent Cowles was a good fit musically as an opener. Cowles is from Denver. He introduced the band but I did not get their names and I cannot find their names online. Cowles played acoustic guitar and wore Bono-level heels on his boots. There was a lead guitarist on electric, electric bassist, and drummer. At exactly 8pm, the drummer hit the kick and the toms and the sound went into my chest and started bouncing back and forth between my back and my chest. This club is LOUD. I have not been in a place that LOUD since CBGB. It was ear bleeding decibel loud. Although I enjoyed the band there was not anything that made want to rush out and buy their album. But it certainly was not wasted time listening to them.
At 9:15pm, Lucero came out and played an amazing two-hour set. They did not stop for an encore and just played through. Their tour is in support of the new album, Among the Ghosts, so we heard a lot of new songs but they mixed in a lot of older stuff too. The new album fits in more with their older stuff and neither the new or old songs sounded out of place.
Based on the setlist from other nights, it looks like they are pretty much sticking to a setlist and not taking many requests. Songs were called out and ignored. There are some deviations but not much.
“Well, well, well. Friday night in Brooklyn. Never been to the Warsaw before but it’s pretty sweet. They gave us sausages and pierogis.”
The amazing Rick Steff (keyboards, accordion) entered wearing a silver sequined jacket that he bought on Amazon. One of the roadies kept lighting it up with his flashlight. The excellent Brian Venable (guitar) was barefoot and Ben Nichols (vocals/guitar) was wearing sneakers. John C Stubblefield came in (and kept walking off the stage and back on) and strapped on his bass and stood like a curly-haired Greek statue with big old sideburns keeping everyone grounded with his steady rhythm. And Roy Berry (drums), as always, amazes me with his gentle touch yet big sound. Brian’s guitar is a perfect complement to Ben’s lyrics. And Ben’s lyrics kill me – they are personal and universal at the same time.
After “Union Pacific Line,” Ben told a story about Tim Barry’s 5-year-old daughter who listened to the song and said it did not make any sense because there are no passenger trains on the Union Pacific Line. The band shredded “No Roses No More” but at that point the volume was turned up even louder and my ears were actually beginning to hurt. As a former live sound person and a current singer, I should protect my ears but I have never found ear plugs that I liked. And I had never had this problem before.
After “Cover Me” Ben and Rick (on accordion) did “The War” and Ben said it had the same chords as the song before – there are only so many chords. He did an a cappella “Last Pale Light in the West” and told us a bit of what it is like when he sings that as a lullaby for his daughter and she decides she wants to eat or do anything but sleep. But it does put her to sleep. Before “My Name is Izzy,” which was written for a 1-year-old Isabel, he sang a little of a new song for a 2-year-old Isabel – “so tough, so tough, so tough being two.”
Ben switched back and forth between acoustic and electric guitars and had to restart “Tears Don’t Matter Much” and decided the problem was that he had not drunk enough. He had a small bottle of XXX whisky and he was drinking straight from the bottle because the cup of whisky with ice was too watered down. He did hit himself in the head once after that (my measure of how drunk he is).
Ben said the show should end with everybody feeling good but we knew what show we came to and they were going to play some sad depressing songs for us. While tuning, Ben teased Rick about the jacket and he was surprised that Rick still had it on. Rick said he did take it off earlier because he could not play accordion with the jacket on. Ben said that there had probably been many accordion players in that venue that played wearing similar jackets and I laughed because I was sure he was right. Brian said that Rick needed to buy matching pants and Ben said then he could twirl around like a disco ball during “Slow Dancing.”
“Okay, thank you. Oh, we’re done. That’s enough Lucero. Oh some more? Okay, we’ll do a couple of more songs.”
And that is how they went into their fake encore. Ben said that for “Long Way Back Home,” his brother Jeff came down to Memphis to shoot the video and Michael Shannon starred in it. He said Shannon is just as terrifying in person. Sweetest guy but also terrifying.
For “Here at the Starlite” there was an interesting choice to have the last line of the chorus be only reverb.
Among the Ghosts
Bottom of the Sea
To My Dearest Wife
Downtown/On My Way Downtown
Texas & Tennessee
Union Pacific Line
Everything Has Changed
No Roses No More
Chain Link Fence
Sweet Little Thing
Nights Like These
The Last Pale Light in the West
Hello My Name is Izzy
Tears Don’t Matter Much
Drink ‘Till We’re Gone
Always Been You
I Can’t Stand to Leave You
Long Way Back Home
Here at the Starlite
For the Lonely Ones
While I was putting my stuff away, Joe Brown, Lucero’s sound guy waved to me from the stage. I am not sure if he thought I was someone else or if he actually recognized me from Facebook. I went to the back room and saw where they sold food. Talked with Rick and Brian and thanked each of them for a great night. Got a hug from Brian. Then I found Ben at the bar, where he was surrounded, as usual, but I managed to get a thank you in and he was gracious and thanked me for coming out. We hugged a hello and a goodbye and I told all of them that I would see them in Phoenix.
By Carene Lydia Lopez