The Turnpike Troubadours played the first of three Austin shows in less than a week Friday night at ACL Live. They’ll play again at that same venue Saturday night, and will tape their first episode of "Austin City Limits" there on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
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At first I wondered why they wouldn’t just do the taping on Monday and get back on the road; they’re veterans of the tour bus, after all. After seeing them live, though, I understand.
There’s no way to keep up that amount of pure energy night after night after night without taking some kind of a break.
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The Oklahoma group’s particular brand of kinetic country — full of burn-the-house-down fiddle playing, foot stomping rhythms and weeping steel guitar combined with rich, introspective lyrics — had the ACL Live crowd Friday night come close to, dare I say, almost moshing along to hits like "Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead" and "The Mercury."
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(Or a least, as close to moshing as you can get at a country concert. It looks more like a white guy standing stationary while cocking his head back and forth really fast, a move I like to call "The Rooster.")
And everyone in the crowd seemed to know the words to every song, even the ones from latest album "A Long Way from Your Heart." That was a good thing, too, since some of Felker’s lyrics got drowned out by the band. There’s also something about being a part of an audience that so clearly loves the band they’re seeing that just slaps a grin on your face.
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Frontman Evan Felker and guitarist Ryan Engleman read their crowd well, serving up the rowdiest and most energetic of the band’s catalog. The rest of the band played like it was the last time they’d ever get to touch their instruments, and kept up that energy for more than 20 songs. The only slow breaks came midway through the show and at the end, courtesy of "Pay No Rent" and "Diamonds and Gasoline," respectively.
After a full set like that, it makes you wonder how they’ll keep it up for another show and a taping.
"We pride ourselves on our live show, that’s definitely what we strive for," bass player R.C. Edwards told me in an interview.
If the other two shows the Troubadours perform this week are as good as this one, they’ll definitely have an Austin stand to be proud of.
1. "The Housefire"
2. "Every Girl"
6. "Kansas City Southern"
7. "The Mercury"
8. "Pay No Rent"
9. "The Winding Stair Mountain Blues"
10. "Good Lord Lorrie"
11. "A Tornado Warning"
12. "The Hard Way"
13. "Gin, Smoke and Lies"
14. "Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead"
15. "Whole Damn Town"
16. "Bossier City"
17. "Diamonds and Gasoline"
18. "Drunk, High and Loud" (R.C. Edwards performance)
19. "Long Hot Summer Day"
1. "The Bird Hunters"
2. "Something To Hold On To"