Monday 10 September 2012 at 8:00pm
The Cotillion Ballroom
11120 West Kellogg, Wichita, 67209, United States
Tel: (316) 722-4201
John Hiatt 8pm Monday, September 10. Doors at 7pm. Reserved Seat Tickets on sale for $45, $35 & $30 . Tickets available at The Cotillion, 316-722-4201, thecotillion.com and the employee clubs. No service fees for tickets purchased at The Cotillion open 8a-6p Mon- Sat.
It's supposed to get harder.
Not at first, when a fledgling songwriter is struggling to understand the intricacies of melody and meter, and working to pack away enough life experience to find something valuable and wise to say. It's supposed to get easier from there, for a while.
But after that, creation is supposed to become labored. Think of your longstanding favorite recording artists. Isn't the latest album the one with the songs that send folks in the crowd to the concession stands?
Isn't "I prefer his earlier work" the norm?
What's your favorite Rolling Stones record? Let me guess. ... It's not A Bigger Bang. (A note: Released in 2005, A Bigger Bang has some phenomenal songs on it, including "Rough Justice." But it's not your favorite. Beggars Banquet, from 1968, is.)
"How much longer can my brain set itself on fire?" sings John Hiatt, the Music City Walk of Fame member who has been writing and performing searing works of merit and consequence since before he arrived in Music City, 40 years ago.
Valid point, the fire deal. Most of us have a few go-to stories we can tell. Hiatt has hundreds of those stories, and they all need to rhyme, and to entertain, and to have moments of surprise and open-heartedness. Hiatt just turned 59, and at some point you'd think he'd run out of subject matters or out of initiative. Out of can-do or want-to. He's written about ne'er-do-wells and lucky ones, about cars (stolen and unstolen), about Elvis Presley and Ronnie Milsap and John Lee Hooker, about losers who win and winners who lose. He's written songs recorded by Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville and so many more.
He's been a voice of reason, a voice of passion and the voice of animated animal Ted Bedderhead of Disney movie The Country Bears. (I think that's the only one of Hiatt's recorded vocal performances I haven't heard.)
And he figures he can go on setting his brain on fire indefinitely.
"She's sizzling as we speak," he says. "The work is just what I do. It's my habit of being. I still get grateful when I pull one down. Like, thanks to whatever power that be."
A Nashville icon
At this point, of course, the audience comes to him, whenever he chooses to leave his Williamson County home. (He moved back to the area in 1985; because Nashville "felt like home.")
Saturday night, audience members will file into one of Hiatt's favorite halls, Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, and they'll witness a Hiatt set that will include longtime favorites such as "Tennessee Plates," "Thing Called Love" and "Have a Little Faith in Me" along with songs from a fine new album, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. The new one is Hiatt's 20th studio album, and it stands with any of them.
To watch Hiatt these days is to wonder that he was ever a shoe-gazing folkie. These days, He prowls the stage, delivering the bluesy stuff in a whiskey-burn howl, shouting the rock stuff and fronting a formidable band that can turn on a dime, from ballads to bombast.
The new album opens with bombast, with a song called "Damn This Town," in which the sad sack narrator stews over his fate, proclaiming a noisy exit without ever going anywhere, bolted to the chair like Hiatt onstage before that Denver night. Hiatt burned that character out of his brain after coming up with an insistent guitar riff.
"I had that riff, and kept singing nonsense over it," he says. "The first line just popped out: 'They killed my brother in a poker game/ Damn this town, I'm leaving.' And that's all I needed to jump in and take a trip. Now, we've got conflict. The guy's restless and irritable and he's ready to blame everyone and everything, but he never leaves, for reasons we don't really know."
Hiatt has been that guy at times, but not in a long while. He's a settled kind of fellow; It has been a long time since his voice's whiskey burn involved actual whiskey. In his Nashville years, he has gone from wild-eyed young buck to esteemed elder.
"I think I got old, is what you're trying to say," he says to that notion. "There's really nothing to becoming an elder statesman. You just don't die, and you hang around."
You hang around with a flammable brain, and a peculiar state of being; you make yourself a moving target and you watch the whole thing get easier by the day.
Nothing to it.john hiatt