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Published: 2016/01/26
by Larson Sutton

Wood Brothers, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA- 1/21

The Wood Brothers in late 2015- photo by Joshua Frances

As far as nights on the road go, Oliver Wood would probably say this was a rough one. It was a year ago, almost to the day, that the Wood Brothers had last played the El Rey, at the tail end of touring in support of 2013’s The Muse. Returning with the newly released Paradise, the trio, with brother Chris Wood on bass and Jano Rix on just about any instrument at his disposal, was excited to showcase all that was special from the latest album. Just one problem: Oliver was sick. Yet, despite battling illness, and technical difficulties halfway through the show, the Brothers pressed through in an effort valiant and fulfilling, pulling off another stellar performance of Americana rock.

Out of the gate with new one “Never and Always,” into a grooving “Atlas,” with Rix on shuitar and the siblings brandishing their acoustics, immediately the feet were tapping and the heads were bobbing in the packed vintage movie house. The shifting “Mary Anna” led to Rix behind the drums and Oliver switching on the electric for the countrified rock of “Snake Eyes,” then two more from Paradise with “Without Desire” and “Heartbreak Lullaby,” hushed by Chris on harmonica and Oliver’s gentle fingerpicking. Lead vocals on “Pay Attention” went to Chris, who mentioned briefly his brother’s less than ideal health, followed by the minor-key cloud of “American Heartache.”

After a memorizing bowed bass intro came the funk of “Who the Devil,” and a second half of the show that worked off of much of the Brothers’ back catalog. A single-mic interlude included “The Muse” and, with Oliver’s request for some help, opener Liz Vice joining the three for a clutching rendition of Randy Travis’ “Down by the Riverside.”

“Wastin’ My Mind” brought the band back to its full-stage alignment only to have Oliver’s guitar rig, (whether amp or cable, it’s still unclear) crackle and fizzle out. A brief delay for repairs, then a solo Oliver on “Trouble in Mind” before the full group on new single, “Singin’ to Strangers,” and a welcomed “Postcards from Hell,” for an oddly appropriate threesome of tunes given all that Wood was combating. “Raindrop” and the always good-time shake of “Honey Jar” concluded the 100-minute set.

The encore had the feeling of a finish line to a marathon, on an audience sing-along on favorite “Luckiest Man,” as Rix dazzled on keyboard, and the expanding heavy grooves of a final “When I Was Young” that left Wood visibly spent. It was a yeoman’s effort not to be deterred by health issues of the body or the gear. The Wood Brothers not only had survived but endured for a concert ultimately more memorable for the music than for the maladies.

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