Given the popularity of John Hiatt's live shows in Utah and beyond, it's a wonder that he hasn't enjoyed a ton of pop success during his lengthy career. The man regularly sells out when he comes through Zion, including his co-headlining gig with Taj Mahal Sunday night at Red Butte Garden, and yet he remains more of a critical success than a commercial one.
That's great for those of us who have been turned on to the man's rootsy blend of folk, rock and country, and his worthy way with words. Hiatt has released a series of consistently winning albums with a rotating cast of collaborators and bandmates, and constantly toured with just as diverse an array of players. And you can pretty much never go wrong when you delve into Hiatt's music.
That was the case once again Sunday night, when Hiatt's tour in support of his new album Terms of My Surrender brought him and his band back to Salt Lake City. In this case, Hiatt's touring band and studio band were one in the same, giving the new songs like "Baby's Gonna Kick," "Old People" and "Wind Don't Have to Hurry" the benefit of a confident band of players capable of really ripping into the music.
Guitarist Doug Lancio is a special player, ripping out eclectic lead guitar along with some fine banjo-picking over the course of the cloudy evening. Joined by bass player Nathan Gehri, drummer Kenneth Blevins and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Young, Lancio led the band as Hiatt's right-hand man, leaving the singer to swap through electric and acoustic guitars, as well as a little harmonica.
Hiatt opened the show with "Your Dad Did" from his excellent Bring The Family album, and followed up with "Detroit Made" before hitting the first new song of the night with "Baby's Gonna Kick." From there, he bounced all over his catalog, bringing new songs in occasionally between older favorites.
Among the highlights for me: "Crossing Muddy Waters," a rousing "Cry Love" and a lovely take on "Feels Like Rain." "Perfectly Good Guitar" and "Thing Called Love" remain obvious crowd favorites, and his bluesy "Master of Disaster" proved a treat from one of his more recent collections.
Good stuff all around, and enough to keep the crowd on hand after Taj Mahal played for about 90 minutes himself to start the show. I only caught the tail end of Taj, enough to hear him play some mean guitar and get a rousing ovation.
(Photo from Zimbio.com)