When the "Songbook: A Night of Stories and Songs" tour was announced, I leapt at the chance to get a ticket for the October 23rd show at L.A.'s Bootleg Theater. My imagination ran wild as to what a "Songbook: A Night of Stories and Songs" show would be like. I mean, "A Night of Stories and Songs" must be really special...and something very different for the Trapper, a show that would be quite different than the shows I had seen in years past. It had to be different, otherwise why else would they call it "Songbook: A Night of Stories and Songs"???
As I found out on Sunday evening at the Bootleg, "different" did not mean better, nor even different! I thought maybe the whole show would be intimate, perhaps in MTV Unplugged style. Nope. Eric had his classic Gibson SG out to play more often than not, and Erik was not shy on his electric. Brian's playing was toned down a turn, but not by much. Mike and Marty both played on their electric instruments.
As for the stories? Well, Eric came off as a reluctant storyteller. I never got the sense that he enjoyed telling stories about this or that song, and several songs were played with no story at all. So the "stories" part was not what I had hoped it would be, and ended up being a minor part of the show.
As for the songs, well let me first say that I couldn't help but notice that BT played longer and more adventurous setlists in other cities, which was a bummer (though great for the cities in Colorado and Oregon). In addition to that, 35 percent of the show I saw featured the same six songs they always play at every Los Angeles Blitzen Trapper show. Aside from "Fletcher," each song was played the exact same way they always play it. Worse, extended jam-standards like "Thirsty Man" were shortened down to to the nub (a far cry from the epic version I witnessed at the Troubadour in 2014).
Another 30 percent or so of the concert focused on songs from last year's "All Across This Land" album, which is fine. No problem with that. What irked me is that Blitzen Trapper used the remaining 35 percent of the show to play cover songs. Now, I am all for bands covering material from other artists. Bruce Springsteen is a master of it. Yet for a short, 17-song set, six cover songs felt like overkill to me.
For some reason, I thought "Songbook: A Night of Stories and Songs" meant BLITZEN TRAPPER songs, not Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Gillan Welch, Elliot Smith, and Phil Collins songs. Those artists are all great, for sure, yet so is Blitzen Trapper. Forgive me, yet I wanted to hear more Blitzen Trapper songs. That's the reason why I went to the show, arrived early, waited out in the rain to get in, and then waited over two hours inside for the band to hit the stage.
If the show was, I don't know, 20-30 minutes longer, with more BT tunes, the six cover songs wouldn't be such an issue. Yet with these covers actually taking the place of say...the great "Destroyer of the Void" material that was played elsewhere on this very same tour, or "Stolen Shoes and Rifle" (also played elsewhere on this tour), it seemed all wrong, and perhaps unfair to the loyal fans who appreciate ALL of Blitzen Trapper's material, past and present.
As much I do love the grunge bands, I didn't understand at all why BT bothered with the Grunge Melody. It felt like an acknowledgement of some sort to the 90's music they loved, but musically it offered nothing but the band faithfully playing a minute or two of each band's song, then moving on to the next one. Again, it felt very much like cover band overkill, which is a shame for a band like Blitzen Trapper, who has such a rich, and diverse catalog of music.
I will say this, the Blitzen Trapper's version of Gillian Welch's "Miss Ohio" that evening was pretty f*cking awesome. Eric, Marty and Brian's harmonies were so very beautiful with the song, inspiring me to check out the original. So, at least that. "Miss Ohio"was one of the few highlights in a night filled with disappointment.
Eric, Marty, Brian, Erik, and Mike...you are terrific guys, and great musicians, yet I left the Bootleg Theater on Sunday night very angry, and down. "Songbook: A Night of Stories and Songs" ended up being a night of few stories, and an overabundance of non-Blitzen Trapper songs. The name of the tour was misleading, and I felt mislead. It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I wondered if I would ever go to a Blitzen Trapper show again, especially in Los Angeles.
Hope I have not caused any offense to anyone, yet I am a passionate man, and am speaking from the heart, out of my love for the band, and for the great music that continues to move, inspire, and surprise me. Despite my criticism, I still love Blitzen Trapper, and look forward to what the band has to offer in the future...even if, from now on, I am forever banned from your concerts.