Concert Review: Sad Clowns and Hillbillies


One the hottest day of 2017 so far, WC attended a live concert at an outdoor venue, Outlaw Field in Boise. It was 97° F so we’re talking baked Alaska here.

But the show was pretty good. It was the Sad Clowns and Hillbillies Tour, and opened with Carlene Carter, a member of the third generation of that distinguished country music family. Carter is the daughter of June Carter by June’s first husband, Carl Smith. Johnny Cash was her step-father. Carlene was okay, but her stepsister, Roseann Cash, doesn’t have anything to worry about.

The second artist was the wonderful Emmylou Harris with her Red Dirt Band. Harris was the reason WC was there.

Emmylou Harris singing "Pancho and Lefty," Outlaw Field, Boise

Emmylou Harris singing “Pancho and Lefty,” Outlaw Field, Boise

Emmylou treated us to “Red Dirt Girl,” “Pancho and Lefty” and a lot of other great tunes, with some emphasis on her later work. At 70 years old, she has lost a bit of her vocal range but she still has a wonderful voice and a terrific songbook to draw from. WC’s only complaint was her set was too short.

The third artist was Johnny Cougar John Cougar Mellencamp John Mellencamp.

John Mellencamp soloing "Jack and Diane," Outlaw Field, Boise

John Mellencamp soloing “Jack and Diane,” Outlaw Field, Boise

WC isn’t a huge fan of Mellencamp; his work has always seemed derivative and his lyrics filled with strong images that never really quite come together. But he’s a good live performer, and he does a nice job of folding traditional folk instruments into rock and roll.

Mellencamp and his band (except keyboardist Troye Kinnett)

Mellencamp and his band (except keyboardist Troye Kinnett)

In the current tour. Mellencamp emphasizes that traditionalism by duetting with Carlene Carter on several songs; the new album with the same name is a collaboration.

Carlene Carter and John Mellencamp

Carlene Carter and John Mellencamp

While WC may not be a huge fan of Mellencamp, clearly the crowd at Outlaw Field was. Which leads WC to a few comments. First, whether it was the heat – and the temperature truly was in the upper 90s when the show started – or the crowd Mellencamp drew, basically Outlaw Field Wednesday night was the largest bar WC has ever been in. All that beer, in turn, led to all the drawbacks of watching a good band in a bad bar. Rudeness, constant loud conversations, unsteady patrons stumbling around and what WC’s buddy Jon used to call “beerfulness.” That’s the loud, fake good nature found in the bottom of the sixth plastic cup of beer. It didn’t help the show. If it keeps up, either WC is going to stop attending or Idaho Botanical Garden is going to have to limit alcohol sales.

Still, it was a pretty good show. Props to Mellencamp for his new song, “Easy Targets,” which plays against his usual audience.

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