Above: “The Man In Me,” honors the little Lebowski in all of us.
By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star
Crossroads KC at Grinders plan last summer to harvest e-mail addresses in exchange for a free ticket to see Cracker went so well they decided to do it again. The pitch may have been déjà vu, but the shows were as different as night and day.
Cracker played a strong, satisfying set last summer, but the boys were on fire for the repeat performance Friday night. Opening number “One Fine Day” sounded like a lost Tom Petty track and stretched past the seven-minute mark as guitarist Johnny Hickman peeled off solo after solo. The performance was too good to end, so band leader David Lowery let go until it reached its natural conclusion.
That set the tone for the rest of the night: There was no letting up. The hilarious country send-up “Mr. Wrong” led into the epic travelogue “Euro-trash Girl,” which was framed with some Willie Nelson-style jazz guitar; the straight country of “Lonesome Johnny Blues” solidified the band’s Grand Ole Opry cred.
As the final notes of the wonderfully self-depreciative “Happy Birthday To Me” were still lingering, Lowery introduced the next number as “approximately the same song” and launched into “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” Although the song – Lowry’s most popular number from his pre-Cracker days in Camper Van Beethoven – was also in last summer’s set list, it was still a pleasant surprise.
If Lowery is the band’s heart then Hickman is its not-so-secret weapon. His guitar solos, high harmony backing vocals and turns as band leader stole the show. Case in point: Hickman’s surprising and outstanding cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me.”
Although the energy flagged a bit with the slow tempo of “Loser” and a reading of “Everybody Gets One For Free” that went on a bit too long, the night ended strong with crowd pleaser “Low.” Hickman again stepped behind the mic for the encore, “Another Song About the Rain.” The song from Cracker’s debut was the perfect capper to the evening: a slow builder that smoldered, then burned and showcased a smoking band.
First Friday and shows at the Sprint Center and River Market made for a competitive evening, which may explain why Crossroads KC was only about a quarter full. The 90-minute set may have been lighter on the hits than last summer’s show, but the faithful had had no room for complaint. Here’s looking to next August.
One Fine Day, Gimme One More Chance, The Riverside, Mr. Wrong, Euro-trash Girl, Lonesome Johnny Blues (Johnny Hickman – lead vocals), Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now), 100 Flower Power Maximum, How Can I Live Without You, The Man In Me (Bob Dylan cover, Johnny Hickman – lead vocals), Happy Birthday To Me, Take the Skinheads Bowling (Camper Van Beethoven cover), Loser, Everybody Gets One For Free, Low, Encore: Another Song About the Rain (Johnny Hickman – lead vocals)