The Iceberg Alley Performance Tent has been pitched in Quidi Vidi since mid-August, and on Sept. 12, the festivities began.
Now in its second year, the 2018 Iceberg Alley Festival has a stacked 10-day run, with over 30 acts playing the large stage in the massive circus tent.
I finally made my way down to the festival on Sunday night, excited to see Steve Earle after missing his sold-out show at Holy Heart in 2016.
I arrived early to catch the local opening acts, and Janet Cull was in full swing before 7 p.m.
Always impressive with her stunning vocal talent, Cull is a pleasure to see live. Her raw energy and magnetism simply doesn’t translate to recordings, but maybe that’s just a personal opinion – her 2016 album “Real Tough Love” was nominated for FACTOR Album of the Year.
Corey Tetford was next. This was his second time opening for Steve Earle, the first being back in 1996, when playing guitar with Damhnait Doyle.
Tetford treated the audience to a number of original tracks, including songs from his 2016 album, “In The Morning,” and a number of selections from the Crush discography. Though overpowered by Tetford’s powerhouse vocals, highly talented fiddler Kendel Carson shone throughout the set.
Ending his set by telling the crowd to “Stick around for Steve Earle” – as if anyone was tempted to leave – the crowd unsurprisingly obeyed these words, the floor packed with longtime fans.
Hitting the stage at quarter after 9, Steve Earle and The Dukes launched into “Copperhead Road” to massive applause. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, and the band played the album in full, in the sequence they appear on the album.
Earle and The Dukes – bassist Kelly Looney, drummer Brad Pemberto, pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson, and power couple guitarist Chris Masterson and fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore – were in fine form, plowing through their 20-song set with burning intensity.
But the same could not be said of the lacklustre crowd. In my experience, this lack of crowd enthusiasm is, unfortunately, unsurprising.
Earle recounted stories of his early days in Nashville, telling humorous stories about working and drinking with John Mellencamp’s guitarist, Larry Crane, writing Christmas songs with The Oak Ridge Boys, and the thrill of buying his first new car – the iconic and rare Buick Grand National.
Bouncing around 16 studio albums, the band played major hits like “Guitar Town,” and “Galway Girl,” the title track from Earle’s 2017 album, “So You Wannabe an Outlaw” and a killer cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.”
Earle and Whitmore’s duet of “I'm Still In Love With You,” originally performed by Earle, The Del McCoury Band and Iris DeMent, garnered the most applause for the night, the sole exception being the enthusiasm for the encore – “Wild Thing,” as popularized by The Troggs.
Regardless of the boring crowd viewing the show from behind their phone screens, Steve Earle and The Dukes put on a perfect performance.
As the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent Festival rages on, “The Week of Living Dangerously” continues.