Concert Review: Lucero – Magic Stick – 4/13/12
When a Lucero tour hits Detroit, the show is a bit different than it is in other cities. People are crazy here. “Just let me get through this song.” front man Ben Nichols begged the aggro-hardcores up front who were hell-bent on slam dancing and stage diving though even the quietest, slowest and darkest songs.
Lucero fans know I am talking about The War, the closing song from 2005’s Nobody’s Darlings. And Detroit Lucero fans know what I am talking about because this happens every time they try to slow it down in this city. Nichols steps out alone to tear a hole through the hearts in the audience with a story about his grandfather’s time overseas driving a tank into Belgium and spending time in a trench during WWI. Unfortunately for 99% of the sold-out Magic Stick crowd, the moment was all but ruined as bodies slammed into the singer and forced several interruptions to the should-have-been poignant moment. That doesn’t happen in other cities, Nichols has said, wondering exactly why Detroit has embraced Lucero as their excuse to tear shit up. At the same time, however, Detroit has been very kind to Lucero – supporting the band with consistently well attended shows and long lines at the merch table over the years. The guys are well aware of this and repeatedly make it clear that they love playing here and appreciate the support.
Perhaps the irony is that the rest of Lucero’s set would be expected to invoke such insanity, but compared to previous stops in Detroit, the crowd was relatively calm. I think the compact mass of humanity played a factor, but it certainly wasn’t due to any less whiskey consumption or loss of energy and execution from the stage. This is a band peaking live, but still very much on their way up. They won’t be playing venues like this for long as they are poised to take that next step into territory currently held by veteran bands like Drive-By Truckers and Wilco.
Lucero blazed through a couple hours of their whiskey-drenched catalog of heartache and longing with Nichols and guitarist Brian Venable leading the way. It was fourteen years ago to the night they played their first show and the band was in a celebratory mood, sharing shots and smiles. They are out supporting their new record Women and Work, and like their previous effort, 2009’s 1372 Overton Park, the record and live sets are saturated with home-town Memphis blues and soul mingled with country rock and rowdy bar-punk. They’re traveling with horns, and they are integrated with a bit more tact than they were on the `09 tour, adding appropriate swing and texture when needed, but taking a back seat to Nichols gravelly voice and Venable’s biting Telecaster leads. The set was dominated mostly by new material, which is strong and played with an extra bit of gumption, but there was a higher level of emotion from the audience when they dug into their back catalog of darker, more raucous songs. Either way, a Lucero show is quite the event – especially in Detroit. Catch these guys while you can still see them in a club!