The ownership society

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Steve Earle summed up the concept pretty well at last night's First Avenue gig: "If you don't own anything you're fucked."

It was a first-rate performance, better than the last two club shows he's done in town. The material was culled heavily from his last two studio albums. "Rich Man's War" and "What's A Simple Man To Do?" stood out as tracks likely to become mainstays on the Earle set list. "Galway Girl" and "Condi, Condi," two songs I've never much cared for, were huge sing-along crowd-pleasers. Earle also performed the usual anthemic chestnuts, "Guitar Town" and "Copperhead Road," with gusto. I could do without ever hearing the treacly, cliched folk tune "Christmas in Washington" again. The covers were typically inspired, with the Jagger/Richards tune "Sweet Virginia" coming off particularly groovy.

The lefty sermonizing was moderate by Earle's standards. He gave a righteous little pro-union speech before playing "Harlan Man" and briefly inveighed against the Iraq war on a couple of occasions. It was just enough rabble-rousing to make the show unpalatable for Republicans, which was fine by me.

The core of Earle's band--Eric Ambel on guitar, Will Rigby on drums, and Kelly Looney on bass--is a pleasure to behold. They've logged so many shows together now that they effortlessly churn through the material. Some folks I spoke with afterwards interpreted this as indifference. But I think they were listening with their eyes.

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