Americana Returns to Red Rocks
Summer began in Colorado over the weekend. Not on the calendar or according to phases of the moon or however it is we measure changes of seasons anymore. On Friday, Colorado joined a good chunk of the country and largely removed mask requirements for anyone old enough (and intelligent enough) to get themselves vaccinated. Saturday at midnight, virtually all capacity limits in the state were vaporized. And, best of all, Lucero returned to Red Rocks on Sunday evening.
The last time I took in a show at the world’s best outdoor music venue – 594 LONG days ago – Tyler Childers packed the house with 9,525 rabid fans (approximately 9,300 of whom were from the Commonwealth of Kentucky), and it was maybe the best, most good-natured crowd I’d seen in Morrison. Since then, Red Rocks has replaced the roof over the stage. Also – there was a pandemic. Sunday night was the first Americana show with an actual “crowd” since late September of 2019, and it reminded all of us – fans, venue employees and musicians – of what we’ve missed over the past 14 months or so.
Austin-based Shane Smith and the Saints opened the evening, and their Irish-flecked Southern rock with a side of heavy metal attitude nearly stole the evening. I’ve seen the enormity of Red Rocks swallow up talented artists before, but not this time – the Saints showed no fear. Lucero’s Ben Nichols joked (?) that he’s hoping to open for THEM someday, and that could happen – they brought their own sizable fan base, and they only added to it during their 45 minutes on stage.
Over the past 20 years, Nichols has proven to be one of the most genuinely likeable guys in the alt-country movement, and that shined through on Sunday evening. Lucero wasn’t there to promote the excellent new album (When You Found Me) they released earlier this year, and they certainly weren’t there for an easy cash grab. They were at Red Rocks because, god’s honest truth, they’ve missed playing music about as much as we’ve missed hearing it. Yes, they hit the new stuff (most satisfyingly, the slow-build drama of “Have You Lost Your Way” and the Southern gothic of “Coffin Nails”), but it was more about older gems like “On My Way Downtown,” a geographically appropriate Townes Van Zandt cover (“Colorado Girl”) or soliciting shouted requests from music-hungry fans. The evening wrapped with fan favorite “Nights Like These.” The song is normally a downer, but at the end of an evening when rain constantly threatened (but never fell) and after a year of sterile, unsatisfying livestreams, it’s nights like these that will remind us why we fell in love with our favorite bands. Find more Lucero here: http://luceromusic.com. Find Shane Smith and the Saints here: https://www.shanesmithmusic.com