As Jay Farrar’s nasally drone filled the smoke-heavy air of Newby’s, the crowd swayed along, nodding with approval. Check any Internet site or read any record review and Farrar’s songwriting prowess will undoubtedly be mentioned in the comments. The show that Son Volt put on in Memphis was no different.
For a Wednesday night, there was a great crowd, and they greeted the band with cheers. In any city, mid-week shows are tougher draws, so a full room was undoubtedly a great treat for the band, and they delivered a solid show. From the opening cymbal beats of "Jet Pilot," the band was off and running. And it was clear from the setlist that the band is still touring in support of Okemah and the Melody of Riot – the entire album with the exception of "Ipecac" was played over the course of the show.
Midway through the show, the band delved into older Son Volt offerings and Farrar’s solo catalogue. Guitarist Brad Rice’s slide guitar work peppered "Damn Shame" off of Farrar’s disc Sebastopol, and material off of the first Son Volt release, Trace, was especially prevalent. "Live Free" was the first to appear, and the audience sang along with Farrar’s poignant lyrics. "Medication" was phenomenal, again Rice’s dirty guitar tone meshed perfectly with the rhythm section to create a Middle Eastern-tone as this song breached the seven-minute mark.
Cheers for "Windfall" were made all night, and the audience screamed with approval when the song finally surfaced as the second song of the encore. And after "Drown," the show came to a close with Uncle Tupelo’s "Chickamauga." In just under two hours, Son Volt was able to capture the attention and imagination of a packed house of Memphis.
Prior to the encore, the band left the stage after playing "Afterglow 61," an offering from Okemah. One of the lyrics of the song states that "There’s music in the wheels, it’s there to be found." The wheels on Son Volt’s bus may have left Memphis after the show, but anyone standing in Newby’s during their show had no problem finding the music. It was generously offered up, it was absorbed gladly by everyone, and will undoubtedly be fondly remembered until the next time Farrar and company roll back through town.