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Review: John Prine plays mix of new, old heartfelt songs in stellar show
Monday, 02 December 2019 21:46
By DAVE ROWE
Special to the Daily Planet

He has a legion  of devoted  fans and many were on hand  Oct. 30 at Thomas  Wolfe Auditorium in downtown Asheville.

Singer-songwriter John Prine played three sets that night, delivering to long-time followers the standards, along with tunes from a new release.,

Prine that night played ”Sam Stone,” his song about a Vietnam veteran who died from an overdose. Some of the 2,000 or so people in attendance joined in the  singing.

“Hello in There,” another Prine chestnut,  got aired also. The song served as a reminder to greet the elderly warmly. 

Prine came with a tight, four-piece band, but he played this backed up only by his gently hand-picked acoustic guitar and a bowed stand-up bass, providing the concert hall-effect.

Then, someone from the  upper deck shouted out “Artificial Smile,” which is perhaps Prine’s best-known tune. Some see the song as an endorsement of marijuana. Prine, in an interview a while back, said instead that it’s about not artificially keeping your spirits up.

 At any  rate “Artificial  Smile” did not get played, but several tunes off Prine’s 2018 “Tree of Forgiveness” stood out.

A jaunty tune called “Crazy Bone” drew vocal,support from the audience.

In addition, his song “When I Get to Heaven” displayed the humor in roughly  half of Prine’s  songs. In it, he sings, “When I get to heaven, I’m gonna drink a cocktail with no ginger ale, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette nine inches long; I’m gonna chase that pretty woman around, this boy will be going to town.....”

Prine, 73, is a survivor of two cancer operations. Legend has it that his early songs came to him in the mid-1960s, while he walked his route as a mailman. He later moved to Nashville, where Kris Kristofferson helped bring his songs to the surface.

In Asheville, Prine closed the show with “Paradise,” his bluegrass-tinged song bemoaning strip-mining. Again, many crowd members sang along. Lately, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium’s acoustics have come under criticism — for this show, though, the words and music came through clearly.

Prine must travel with top-notch sound men. ”We’ve been  all over the place,” Prine said at one point during his Asheville concert.

Prine,whose current tour includes stops in New Zealand and Australia, said, “We finally made it to Asheville, where the response was surprisingly enthusiastic.”


 



 


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