The crowd at Temple’s Cultural Activities Center Saturday night was in a party mood. The complimentary ale and beer from Blanco’s Real Ale Brewing Company combined with burgers and chips provided by West Burger Shack even caused a few in the audience to take their seats late. But that laid-back vibe is part of the patented ambience of a Rodney Crowell concert.
Crowell, 63, hails from Houston and lost little time reminding the house of that fact.
After his first song, “Anything But Tame,” performed sans band, he waxed nostalgic — recounting some of those bittersweet memories from his past between tunes. The down-home mega-folksiness of his spoken comments clearly resonated with the mostly 50-plus audience, some of whom said they’d enjoyed his memoir, “Chinaberry Sidewalks.”
This was a make-up date for Crowell, who rescheduled his appearance at CAC from May. He got a better deal: a tour with his old boss lady Emmylou Harris. “They (the CAC) were kind enough to change the date, which I appreciate,” he said.
Crowell’s first three songs took nearly 35 minutes due to his extemporaneous remarks: acknowledgment of two diehard fans from Scotland, a warm hello to Danny Dunn, mayor of Temple and his wife, and miscellaneous ramblings describing his four daughters.
By the fourth tune, “Come Back Baby,” Crowell was joined by guitar, bass, drums and keyboard players and the temperature began to rise as a harder-edged sound predominated. The crowd of 400-plus clearly knew the lyrics to his tunes, singing along on many of the evening’s offerings.
“I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home,” Crowell said. “I live in Thompson’s Station, a part of Greater Franklin, Tennessee, and this is my regular band. We’ve been traveling all year together.” And that was obvious from the tightness and rhythmic precision of the group on the CAC stage.
Part of Crowell’s quirky charm, while sometimes difficult to translate, came across in his story about the Valentine’s song he composed for his wife. “As a songwriter, a gun to your head (deadline) sometimes works, but not always. That’s how I came up with ‘I’m Gonna Be There For You Baby’.”
Quirky works: it was another No. 1 hit for Crowell.