It was clearly a special show last night at City Winery, as before Marshall Crenshaw took the stage, they unveiled one of their special signature artist wine brands to honor him, namely Marshall Crenshaw Cabernet Sauvignon.
Following suit, The ‘Shaw was in vintage form, with spectacular backing by instrumental superstars Andy York on guitar, Graham Maby on bass and Rich Pagano on drums—pound-for-pound, the best band in this or any town last night. They even made Ted Nugent more than palatable, opening, shockingly but wondrously, with Nugent’s one-hit wonder band the Amboy Dukes psychedelic 1968 hit “Journey To The Center Of The Mind.”
Crenshaw then found his own stride with “Stranger And Stranger,” the A-side titletrack of his brand new three-song EP—the second in his admittedly “unconventional” means of continuing his recording career via regular EP digital/vinyl releases.
“I’ve been making records for eons and eons and eons,” he explained after his post-show merch signings. “I can’t help it! I can’t allow myself to stop, for some reason, and this is a fresh way of doing it at this late point in time.”
Crenshaw also sang the first EP I Don’t See You Laughing Now’s A-side titletrack—additional evidence that his knack for tunefully concise pop tunesmithing remains intact. And in keeping with his “hard and fast rule” of doing at least one Buddy Holly song per show, Crenshaw, who played Holly in the 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba, turned in a perfect “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” distinguishing his version from Holly’s by his backup’s slamming rhythm.
As for his backups, he gave each a song choice. York, who plays with everyone but is best known for his long stint with John Mellencamp, showed he could sing lead, too, on “Walk Hard,” Crenshaw’s Grammy-nominated titletrack for the film comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Maby, who’s also played with everyone and remains best known for his long stint with Joe Jackson, led the group on toy piano for The Move’s “No Time,” covered by Crenshaw on the I Don’t See You Laughing Now EP. Pagano, who powers the Fab Faux and was behind the recent B.B. King supershows with Johnny Rivers and Lulu, submitted “Right On Time” from Crenshaw’s 2009 album Jaggedland.
Crenshaw dusted off “Calling Out For Love (At Crying Time),” from his Don Dixon-produced 1987 album Mary Jean & 9 Others, and closed with his big hits “You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time,” “Someday, Someway” (flavored by York’s electric sitar) and “Cynical Girl.” Spotted standing up at the end was New York indie rock star couple Mary Lee Kortes, whose band Mary Lee’s Corvette also features York and who was glowing from a newly signed BMG Chrysalis music publishing deal, and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, beaming over the release of his old band The Del-Lords’ first album in 23 years, Elvis Club, which he produced.