A special guest fan review by Dr. David Welsh:
It was a big night for what has become a November tradition at Dallas’ Granada Theater: the annual Benefit for Cystic Fibrosis. For the past five years, Rhett has headlined this event dedicated to raising awareness and money for the fight against a crippling disease. Tonight set a new record for ticket sales, which should help the organizers go well past the $100,000 already brought in by previous performances.
Those willing to donate extra money for VIP passes were treated to a preshow meet-and-greet. Rhett opened a spontaneous mini-set with “Our Love,” then followed with the rarely performed “Sometimes” (at this reviewer’s personal request). The 50+ people in attendance sang the missing Murry parts perfectly on “Indefinitely,” which then provided the foundation for a frantic “Four-Leaf Clover.” Rhet was his usual gracious self, chatting with fans and posing for endless photos.
After the intimacy of the preshow, the doors opened and the Granada began to fill. Opening act The O’s were a marvel of sound and energy emanating from two dudes playing banjo, guitar, kick drum, tambourine, and lowebro pedal steel. Beautiful harmonies and a deprecating sense of humor all done up in a Louvain-meets-Everly-Brothers style seemed a perfect appetizer for an Old 97’s show. Sarah Jaffe followed. Her earnest brand of heart-wrenching vocals oozing sensitive vulnerability clearly pleased her many fans in the audience. This reviewer was concerned that if Jaffe’s set lasted any longer, he might start to grow ovaries.
Rhett finally took the stage at 10 PM. He planted his musical flag with the opening blast of “This Is What I Do,” and then never looked back. The setlist included three songs from his previous solo releases, two covers from his upcoming solo release (The Interpreter), a range of Old 97’s material concentrating on TFTC forward, a Christmas favorite, and a brand-new song performed for the very first time (perhaps titled “Sleepwalking”?) featuring the instantly classic couplet: “she had a prominent nose; she took off all of her clothes.” He performed a cheesy duet (the 80’s synth-pop chestnut “Only You”) with local radio personality Gordon Keith; and brought a young lady up from the audience to accompany him on “Firefly.”
Although between-song banter was kept to a minimum, we did learn that the Old 97’s were set to accompany Billy Bragg on a tour supporting Mermaid Avenue until their visas were cancelled at the last minute. Rhett’s rendition of the Woody Guthrie-penned “California Stars” from that album was a memorable moment in a memorable evening. Lyric flubs and broken strings were minimal during the 70-minute performance, but the energy on stage was high-octane throughout. Dramatic spit-takes erupted during “Doreen” and again for the encore of “Big Brown Eyes.” The sound quality was impeccable, the crowd was adoring, and a good time was had by all.
~ David Welsh
The entire setlist was as follows:
1. This Is What I Do
3. Won’t Be Home No More
4. Singular Girl
5. Here It Is Christmastime
6. Rollerskate Skinny
7. California Stars (cover)
8. The El
11. [new one] “Sleepwalking”?
12. Designs on You
13. Barrier Reef
14. Only You (cover) duet w/Gordon Keith
16. Champaign, IL
18. A State of Texas
19. Our Love
1. Big Brown Eyes
2. American Girl (cover)