It was a busy and historical weekend in Toronto as the inaugural Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) took over the grounds of Fort York by day and the venerable Lee's Palace and Horseshoe Tavern for festival goers who wanted to keep the party rockin' by night.
Americana legend Alejandro Escovedo with his band, The Sensitive Boys, had the distinct honor of being the final act for what appears to be the wildly successful festival's first run. Playing his second set of the day after appearing on the main stage at the festival grounds, Alejandro showed the large Horseshoe crowd he still had plenty in the tank to close out year 1 of TURF and get everyone looking forward to next year's installment.
Opening his hour long set with "Castanets", a great, rocking song to get the crowd moving after a long weekend of music in the outdoors. "Castanets", of course, has a legendary appeal to it on its own, as back in 2005 it was revealed that then U.S President George W. Bush had that song on his iPod. Upon learning of this, Escovedo apparently vowed not to play this song until it was either (a) removed from the President's iPod, or (b) Bush was voted out of office. In 2008, the song found its way back on the live stage after a roughly 2 year absence, with the departure of the former President.
Escovedo has the benefit of performing every night with one of the finest backup bands I have ever watched with the Sensitive Boys. To watch lead guitarist Ricky Ray Jackson and Escovedo trade licks is a pleasure for any guitar aficionado. The professionalism of the entire group is apparent. They show up and start their set on time and are there to entertain with a straight ahead performance.
Escovedo's musical diversity was on full display as well, rolling from a nice, beautifully performed ballad "The Rain Ain't Gonna Come" to a more psychedelic sound with "It Makes No Sense." One of the real highlights of the night was the performance of the Chuck Prophet co-written song, and the band's namesake, "Sensitive Boys." The band's musicianship really shone on this particular performance.
Ironically, the strongest reaction from the crowd came with the encore. One certainly can't go wrong playing a Neil Young song on stage in Canada, and you certainly can't go wrong when you play a version that rivals the original. The performance of Young's "Hurricane" brought anyone sitting to their feet and was a fantastic way to close out the show and the inaugural TURF. If the crowd's and crowd reception are any indication, this was the first year of many years to come for TURF.
Alejandro Escovedo is on tour extensively through the rest of summer and in to the fall, performing with The Sensitive Boys on a few dates, with Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys on a few more, and co-headlining a tour in the fall with Shelby Lynne. Check out Alejandro's web site for dates and times, and by all means go and see this wonderful performer.