By Phillip Smith
It is such a great pleasure to once again hear live music in the beautifully restored Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids. John Prine, with opener Peter Case played to a capacity crowd last night, bringing a little piece of the Ryman to town.
Singer/songwriter Peter Case, opening his acoustic set with “Put Down that Gun”, quickly captured the audience. I loved “Crooked Mile”, with its funky countrified rhythm and Case’s guitar picking. The song to remember from this set, however, was the soft and heartfelt love song, “Two Angels”. Before beginning this one, Case mentioned it had been picked up and used in an episode of HBO’s True Blood. He went on to say it was used on a scene where two shape-shifters were having sex on a pool table. He then humorously added that was just what he was thinking about when he wrote the song. Case certainly delivered and one couldn’t ask for a better person to open up for John Prine.
With guitarist Jason Wilber on one side and stand-up bassist Dave Jacques on the other, Prine was in rare form, and played through most of the songs from his first and self-titled album. Opening with a rowdy crowd-pleaser, “Spanish Pipedream”, Prine set the mood for the rest of the evening. Before I knew it, he was tearing through “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”, another favorite.
I loved how everything quieted down throughout the “Humidity Built the Snowman” from Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings. This song seems to make me feel really self-aware, just thinking about the lyrics “Humidity built the snowman. Sunshine brought it down.”
Breaking up the heaviness from the previous songs, Prine broke out a fun little song co-written with Peter Case, called “Space Monkey”, about the exploits of a primate shot into space during the Cold War when the USSR and the USA were racing to get a man on the moon first. The monkey was forgotten about but finally made it back to earth, only to meet up with a couple of friends at a karaoke bar and talk about old times.
It was a treat to hear “Dear Abby”, and the heart wrenching “Sam Stone”. The biggest treat for me though, was when Jason Wilber picked up a mandolin, and began playing the intro to the classic, “Angel from Montgomery”. This is what it’s all about.
To bring things to a close, Prine brought Case out on stage , and together they performed a ripping rendition of “Paradise”. It was a great night for music.
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