Live Review: Peter Buck and Alejandro Escovedo at Georgia Theatre, Friday, Feb. 28

The posters promoting the Alejandro Escovedo and Peter Buck tour read, “One Night. Two Legends.” That might have been the case at other points during the legendary musicians’ current tour, but for the Athens stop, there were more than a few legends on stage.

Perhaps the surprises were spoiled a bit for me. As I wandered through the back of the Georgia Theatre looking for soundman Colm O’Reilly (who will be featured in a future installment of Behind the Scene), I walked by Buck and Escovedo’s dressing room to find them hanging out with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s Kevn Kinney, Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood and R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry. 

When Buck hit the stage at 8:15 with his band in tow (comprised of guitarist Kurt Bloch, multi-instrumentalist Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieflin), the half-filled venue was offered tunes that Buck said were written about “getting older and going crazy.” Unsurprisingly, the bulk of his set drew heavily from his recent—and rowdy—solo releases. Songs like “I’m Alive” (from Buck’s self-titled first record) and “Monkey Mask” (from the recent I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again) were representative of the raucousness that littered the setlist. And if Ramones-style punk rock is your thing, you were no doubt happy to witness Buck belt out “Gotta Get Outta the House.” Who needs more than four chords to have a blast?

Hood’s semi-spoken word performance with Buck on “Southerner” is the kind of song that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Hood’s poetic and haunting depiction of the South gone awry was accompanied by McCaughey on lap steel and Escovedo’s violinist, Susan Voelz. The somber tune may have put a pause on the rowdiness, but it was no doubt welcomed by the crowd.

Early in the night, Buck tipped his hat to Chase Park Transduction bossman David Barbe, who was recording the show for a possible live record. (Buck joked that the record would be called On Campus.) Later in the set, Buck joked that the band had reached the “relief” part of the show and brought out Kinney to lead the band through a searing rendition of “Honeysuckle Blue” from 1989’s Mystery Road.

The blistered garage-rock that opened the show was replaced by a smooth and Springsteen-esque performance by Escovedo with Buck and his band serving as backup. Coming out of the gates with the spooky (and oddly sensual) “Can’t Make Me Run,” Escovedo was fully present, captivating the crowd with soulful, Tejas-inflected rock. With such capable musicians at his disposal, he was on point for the entire evening.