Live Review: Lucero at Baltimore Soundstage
â€śYou were 16 when you fell in love,â€ť Ben Nichols sang at the Baltimore Soundstage Thursday night. â€śNo one told you it wonâ€™t be enough.â€ť Nichols, Luceroâ€™s 39-year-old lead singer and chief songwriter, was there to tell you. Wearing a shapeless white T-shirt, a faded green baseball cap, a jaw covered in stubble and two arms full of old tattoos, he resembled the characters in his songs: too soon old and too late wise.
Nichols also resembled the audience that almost filled the big black box of the venue: mostly working-class guys coming up on 40 or seeing it in the rear-view mirror. Nichols was their apt surrogate, his raspy, world-weary verses full of disappointments balanced by his big chorus melodies full of stubborn hopes. These gear shifts wouldnâ€™t have been as effective as they are if his six bandmates werenâ€™t such a terrific rock ‘n’ roll band.
â€śThe last time we drank,â€ť he admitted on the chorus to â€śOn My Way Downtown,â€ť â€śI was less than well behaved.â€ť But when trumpeter Scott Thompson and saxophonist Jim Spake added a punchy horn riff to Rick Steffâ€™s piano fills, the chorus jumped to life and Nichols contradicted himself, declaring, â€śCome on down for just one drink. When youâ€™re around, Iâ€™m more the man that I should be.â€ť
On â€śTexas & Tennessee,â€ť the title track of the bandâ€™s new, impressive, four-song EP, Nichols compared the demise of a love affair to the plane crash that killed Otis Redding in 1967. That connection was cemented by the soulful horn section and no-fuss rhythm section, a reminder that Lucero too comes from Memphis where Redding recorded for Stax.