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Shocked's Show Goes on, Despite Disputes

by Steve Morse

From the Boston Globe, October 8, 1992.
The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute.

The Silverado concert series got off to a rocky start last night. The club looked great -- with rows of chairs placed on the dance floor to enhance the concert setting -- but the show was sabotaged by disputes beyond the club's control. Headliner Michelle Shocked and her main opening act, The Band, feuded beforehand. The Band ended up not playing -- and the reasons are as varied as the plots on your average daytime soap opera. No one wanted to talk on the record, but it appears that The Band did not want to wait around 90 minutes after their set in order to join Shocked for a finale. The tour has played six cities so far (out of a planned 28) and tension has built up over this issue, with Shocked taking it very personally, sources said. The blowup came yesterday afternoon. Depending on whom you talked to, Shocked gave the promoter an ultimatum that either The Band was off the show, or she was. Shocked's camp denies the ultimatum and is still hoping The Band will be back on the tour, which lands at Carnegie Hall tomorrow. But it was an eerie scene last night, with whispered conversations in corners (The Band's Rick Danko even flitted through the room at one point, at a pace that would have impressed Olympian Carl Lewis), and a sense of total bafflement among the nearly 1,000 fans.

Amazingly, Shocked showed no ill effects from the day's emotional traumas. She and her four-piece band, including former Boston banjoist (and Harvard grad) Alison Brown, pumped out a foot-stomping blend of old-timey/bluegrass music, Western Swing and the kind of wonderfully instructive acoustic experimentation that marks her latest album, "Arkansas Traveler." There were even elements of cornpone humor akin to the "Hee Haw" TV show -- all without any trace (or any mention) of the day's well and also overcoming a few glitches in the sound system.

Another opener, the ageless bluesman Taj Mahal, opened effectively, reviving archival country blues such as "Freight Train" and "Sitting on Top of the World," plus updating with a touch of burlesque: "Big Legged Mamas are Back in Style." The other opening act, Uncle Tupelo, was less successful, playing acoustically (as opposed to their rowdily electric Neil Young style) and not really pulling it off, though they redeemed themselves when they joined Shocked later on.

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