Monday, September 27, 2004

Anne McCue Showcase

The wife and I were up in NashVegas this weekend with three tasks at hand - 1) visit the wife's granny, who hasn't been feeling too good; 2) get me introduced to little sister's new man (I approve) and 3) see Anne McCue at an Americana Music Association showcase Saturday night at Mercy Lounge.

Loyal readers of The Wisdom will recall that McCue is the amazingly cool Australian singer-songwriter-guitar goddess that I caught opening for Dave Alvin out in Hollywood a couple of months ago. I first wrote about her because she was cute and I put her on my "I can-do-her" list of celebrity women because I knew I'd be in the same room as her that night (yes, very piggish thing to do).

I feel really bad about that now. "Hey, a hot Australian rocker chick - I'll put her on my list!". As it turns out, she's an amazing musician who deserves more than my stupid little bit about putting her on "the list".

In my defense, I recognized how great she is about two minutes into her show at The Troubadour, and I think I've redeemed myself over the past two months. I bought her album ('Roll') at the Hollywood show, I've converted the wife into a huge Anne McCue fan, I've written about her a couple of times, I've told at least half a dozen friends about her, I've signed up as a "street team" member at her label's website and I've even exchanged a couple of emails with Anne herself (I know, I'm special).

And we timed this NashVegas trip specifically to catch her at the showcase. The wife, as I mentioned, has become a huge fan, but no matter how many times I make her listen closely to the live-in-the-studio version of Hendrix's "Machine Gun" on Anne's album, it's impossible to get a full appreciation of McCue unless you see her live.

We rolled into Mercy Lounge around 9:45 Saturday night and caught about half the set of a guitar/drum act called "Hosty Duo" from Oklahoma. Entertaining.

Because of conflicting reports about the schedule, we got there in time to see the 10:30 act, which turned out to be Asleep At The Wheel (or as the wife calls them, 'Asleep At The Bar'), not Anne. I understand those guys have been around for 30 years and have won a bunch of Grammys, but there's nothing interesting in their roadhouse boogie, and what the hell are they doing in the second spot of a four-act showcase after all these years?

But we suffered through.

And before Asleep At The Wheel could even drag their stuff off stage, Anne was at work getting set up. You could tell she was determined to make the most out of her 45 minutes in front of Nashville industry types. She was setup and ready to go about five minutes after AATW cleared out.

I dragged the wife up by the stage, right smack-dab in front. I think I was one of the few people in the room who knew what was about to happen.

She comes out wearing a black silk cowboy shirt with red rose detail (nice touch for a Nashville show) and some super-fly rockstar shades, straps on her black Les Paul, sells hello in her Elle McPherson accent and breaks in to the title track from "Roll". By the second riff, she's got photographers crowding in front of her, trying to get shots of this little Aussie girl hammering away like Hendrix.

During her all-too-short set, Anne managed to work in time with her lap-steel and 12-string guitars, showed off her songwriting (she played the wife's favorite - "I Want You Back" - and my favorite - "Tiny Little Song") and closed with an abbreviated version of "Machine Gun" to make sure nobody forgets her anytime soon.

In a crowd that was probably 90% Nashville music industry types, I saw mouths agape, people shaking their heads in disbelief and lip-read more than one "holy shit" reaction around me (including from the wife). She got an enthusiastic standing ovation from the Americana Music Association president and his gang, who were sitting on the sofas next to the stage.

She sold all of the copies of "Roll" she had brought along, which is a good sign. We picked up her live album, which is her rocking out solo.

I hope the "right people" were in the crowd to help boost her career, and I hope they looked past her lack of crowd play and the one spot where she had to ask Dusty the bass player for the next line of a song. Over the past few months, she's been going between gigs opening for Heart in the U.S. and club gigs in England and hadn't played a full-band show since I saw her in Hollywood. She's working hard, so I can forgive her for being a bit frazzled.

And, yes, she will remain on my "list". Before we went over to the show, the wife - who's been feeling just a bit jealous - said I had to take Anne off because she's too cool. But after it, the wife told me she could stay. I think her comment was something to the effect of "Dude, if you ever get the chance, you have to go for it."

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