It’s been a while since we’ve heard new music from Alejandro Escovedo, but the Texas-based singer-songwriter finally released his 15th solo album, Burn Something Beautiful, back in November. Recorded with the help of Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck (of The Minus 5 and R.E.M. fame) at the production helm, the record shows that even though he may have slowed down a bit in his output, Escovedo still knows how to rock out. He had been scheduled to play in DC at The Hamilton back in November, but the opportunity to play the finale of the 42nd season of Austin City Limits came up, forcing him to reschedule. It turned out to be a good thing for DC, because this time he was able to bring the band that backed him on the album (The Minus 5 playing as the “Burn Something Beautiful Band”) along for the ride.
The Minus 5 – with the lineup of McCaughey on guitar and vocals, Buck on bass, guitarist Kurt Bloch (of Fastbacks fame), and drummer Linda Pitmon (of 90s rockers Zuzu’s Petals and more recently her husband Steve Wynn’s band, as well as a member of Minus 5 side gig The Baseball Project) – opened the set, playing songs from throughout the band’s catalog, ranging from “Blue Rickenbacker” and “Davy Gets the Girl” from their most recent album Of Monkees and Men, “In the Ground” and “It’s Beautiful Here” from 2015’s Dungeon Golds, “Lies of the Living Dead” from 2000’s In Rock, and “Aw Shit Man” from the band’s 2006 self-titled album, along with a dirge-like cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell.”
After a brief break, the band returned to the stage, with McCaughey and Buck switching instruments and, of course, Escovedo taking center stage. Escovedo opened with a new song, “Heartbeat Smile,” and the majority of the set was drawn from the new album, with only the exceptions of “Castanets” from 2001’s A Man Under the Influence and “Sensitive Boys” from 2008’s Real Animal. It didn’t matter that he steered clear of most of his back catalog – the new material is so strong and Escovedo’s chemistry with the band so good that he had no problem keeping the audience enthralled. Particular highlights of the set included “Sunday Morning Feeling,” “Johnny Volume,” and “Luna de Miel.”
Escovedo returned to the stage to play a brief solo set. When someone shouted “happy birthday!” (a few days early, Escovedo’s actual birthday is on January 10th), he noted that last year’s birthday was saddened by the passing of David Bowie. In tribute, he played a cover of “All the Young Dudes,” a song that he had recorded previously for a Bowie tribute back in 2003, with the audience singing along on the choruses. He followed this with his own “Down in the Bowery” from 2010’s Street Songs of Love before being rejoined by the band for two more songs from Real Animal, “Chelsea Hotel 78” and “Always a Friend.”