Robert Earl Keen (pictured below) turned his show at the Big Easy into a big party. The night kicked off with local outlaw country musician Jeremiah James. Backed by bassist Rob Hill and lead guitarist Dan Costello, James brought a new respect to local openers. James' tunes featured solid song writing and his timeless bass croon. There was a second opener, Stephen Claire, who is currently on the road with Keen. He had a great voice and well-crafted songs, but he got a bit overshadowed by James' strong performance.
When Keen took the stage, he appeared relaxed and happy in cowboy boots and a red beanie. He had obviously had a few beers; and for good reason--it was his birthday. Backed with a tight band, Keen ran through rollicking numbers such as "Copenhagen" and had fans cheering at every break. Folks were attempting to swing dance in every nook and cranny of the venue. Keen looked around and, smiling a goofy grin, looked genuinely happy to be there. When he played mellow tunes such as "Feeling Good Again," the crowd sang every syllable. Keen kept his show from sounding like a greatest hits package by playing new tunes and an engaging cover of "Tangled Up in Blue." His encore included live staple "Road Goes on Forever," which got sped up and transformed into a cheer inducing romp that showcased the formidable talents of Keen's band.
It was a fun night. The crowd was diverse and bent on having a blast. The only downer was the seating arrangement. Had there not been rows of chairs on the floor, the Big Easy may have looked like a larger version of Austin Texas's Stubbs on a busy night.