The Weinberg Center for the Arts theatre in Frederick Maryland is a classic theatre with a full sized professional stage complete with velvet curtains, seating capacity of 1,183, and a nice little bar in the lobby. But even though Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland — outside the Baltimore/DC metropolitan areas — the theatre never seems to have enough music on the schedule, snagging musical acts only a handful of times a year. Many residents bemoan the fact that it doesn’t happen more often, because they are forced to make the one hour trek into Washington DC or Baltimore most of the time to see live music, and the general consensus is that this city could at least support a decent listening room.
However, on Wednesday night, John Hiatt made a stop here, and the town turned out – parking was scarce even in the nearby garages despite the fact that many locals walked. Hiatt took the stage and played solo acoustic for the first set. His rapport was relaxed and he projected it as he told the crowd more than once: “you’re very warm.” He let everyone know he had taken a walk along Frederick’s prized jewel: Carroll Creek, which flows through town with shops and restaurants on its banks like a mini San Antonio before heading straight through the biggest park in town: Baker Park, where there are 58 acres to support tennis courts, baseball fields, a public pool and a band shell stage for the summertime concerts series.
Hiatt opened with a rollicking exciting version of “Perfectly Good Guitar,” the namesake of his 1993 album, followed by “Real Fine Love,” and “Master of Disaster.” Hiatt has a new album coming out on October 12th, The Eclipse Sessions (New West), and he played two songs from that: “Cry to Me,” and “Aces Up Your Sleeve.” And then it was “Crossing Muddy Waters,” the title track from his 2000 album. An austere and somber “Cry Love,” from his 1995 Walk On (Capitol Records) (and for which he received two GRAMMY nominatons) closed the set.
After an intermission, during which boogie woogie blues music was played over the speakers, slide guitarist Sonny Landreth , bass player Dave Ranson and Kenny Blevins on drums (a.k.a “the Goners”) joined Hiatt for an electric full band set, and they performed the 1988 album Slow Turning (A &M) in its entirety—a 30th anniversary celebration.
Hiatt had a grin from ear to ear nearly the entire time and the rhythm section rocked in the pocket. Hiatt and Landreth clearly have an guitar playing alchemy together, as they exhibited it playing “Drive South,” “Trudy and Dave,” “Tennessee Plates,” “ Icy Blue Heart,” and “Sometime Other Than Now.”
Before playing “Georgia Rae,” Hiatt talked a little about having written that song even before his youngest daughter, the song’s namesake, was born – and the audience nodded as Hiatt noted the amazing rate of the passage of those 30 years. Hiatt also mentioned his daughter Lilly Hiatt (the musician) and son Rob. Then it was “Ride Along,” and fan favorite, hit song “Slow Turning:” “I’m yelling at the kids in the back ‘cause they’re banging like Charlie Watts.” Hiatt switched to keys for the next couple: “It’ll Come to You,” and “Is Anybody There?” And then it was “Paper Thin,” and “Feels Like Rain.”
Three encores: “Congo Square” (Sonny Landreth tore it up on his song), and then Hiatt played solo on “Have a Little Faith in Me,” and, finally the band returned and all blasted out “Memphis in Meantime,” and the night was over. The audience took their time leaving, as everyone was satiated and smiling. It was a wonderful night and the crowd was still under its spell. You’d do yourself a favor to catch this act when you can. Look for tour dates here: http://www.johnhiatt.com/tour.html