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Show Review: Rodriguez at The Crofoot

By now you've probably already heard of Rodriguez. He released a few albums in the early 70's, neither of them sold well, then he was dropped by his label. He music became popular amongst anti-apartheid liberal whites in South Africa. He didn't  know this until 1998, and he never got any of the royalties from the album sales  there. You probably know all of this already, but if not, watch these news clips:

What isn't mentioned in the recent documentary about him is that his career wasn't immediately suspended in the early 70's. He hadn't been completely forgotten in Australia. He toured there in '79, and '81. He even  released a live album called "Rodriguez Alive" in Australia, in response to the  rumors of his death. You'd think the album would have made it's way to South Africa by way of tourists, and that the researchers/fans tracking him down could have tried to trace royalties from that album in order to find him. Assuming of course that the Australian record label wasn't also ripping him off.

This show was sold out weeks in advance. A couple of ticket scalper sites were trying to score as much as $200 a pop. The crowd was mostly older, but not exclusively;  there were even a few teenagers in the mix. The super early baby boomers got there and staked out positions on the upper balcony seating. The boomers desperate to tell the world that they're not out of touch made sure to signal this by wearing fedora hats, leather jackets, leather fedoras, or some combination thereof. The boomer audience was definitely different to stand around. Instead of talking about how fucked up they got last weekend, they compared how many trick-or-treaters came out to their house. Rather than try to shove their way up to the front at the last minute, they pretended like they badly had to meet up with someone near the stage. A little hip-check put that shit to rest. You might have the cred for seeing him live back in the 70's, but you're still getting the same treatment from as every other douchebag that thinks they're entitled.

The Thornbills were the only opening act. The audience didn't get excited for them, but they were respectful during the performance. I hear they released a single on label owned by a guy named John Gillis. He must be a recluse or something, because I couldn't find anything about him on the internet.

As the crowd anxiously awaited the headliner, stage techs tested the sound, and  turned on a smoke machine. That's right, a smoke machine. This isn't Kiss or David  Bowie. Rodriguez is supposed to be a man of the people, and anything even approaching a spectacle seems out of place.

Rodriguez needed help from two young women to walk out onto the stage  (granddaughters?). Instead of booze being set out for him, he had water and hot tea. The tea must have been for his voice, because it sounded a little croaky for the first four songs, before reverting to the voice you hear on his albums. He played an electric guitar, with no backing band. Some of his songs have an orchestral quality to it, and that was the only thing that seemed to be missing that night.

When Rodriguez got to his song "Establishment Blues", the crowd cheered to hear  lyrics like these:
I opened the window to listen to the news
But all I heard was the Establishment's Blues.
This system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune
And that's a concrete cold fact
I got to thinking, I'm surrounded by baby boomers, the people Rodriguez was thinking of when he wrote "angry young tune". It's safe to say they're the establishment  now, and with the exception of the draft, they're doing much worse than their parents' generation. They're likely be the first generation of Americans to leave  the country worse off than they found it. My generation, which doesn't turn out to vote in midterm elections because it's not cool enough isn't about to overthrow the boomer's establishment either.

Rodriguez liked to banter with the crowd in between songs. He told some old jokes, like the one where Mickey Mouse says "I didn't say she was crazy, I said she was  fucking Goofy", and a few about marriage and relationships. He told a few anecdotes about his recent popularity and media interviews. He called out to see if there were any Afrikaners is in the crowd (there were a few). While he hinted that he smoked pot earlier that day he said that the song "Sugar Man" was a "descriptive song, not a prescriptive one".

He really enjoyed throwing some covers into the performance. The first was "Blue  Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins (not Elvis, as many now believe), and with its fast pace it was a real departure from everything else he did that night. He also did  "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, and "Fever" by Eddie Cooley and Otis  Blackwell.

Is it cruel to ask a man that has trouble walking to come back out and give an encore? He gave us one anyway.

On the way out, $20 for a CD was giving me the establishment blues.

On a final note, compare this audience size
 to this turnout in August of 2011, before the documentary and the major media coverage:
There was about 50 scattered people watching, and a couple hundred more huddling under a big carnival tent that couldn't be bothered to take notice.

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I'm a dork, I live in the Detroit area, and sometimes I take blurry photos on an outdated camera