The Westies Prove They’re Warmed Up and Ready to Go
If there were ever a concert in need of a “barn burner” status, it was Saturday night’s performance by The Westies in the open-air barn at Bluebird Ranch in Murchison, Texas. As an unforgiving chill set in, even the band from Chicago seemed to be taken back by the 45 degree temperature. “I don’t know whether to drink my coffee or put my hands in it,” frontman Michael McDermott declared between songs.
Having wrapped up a brief east coast swing and southern jaunt in support of their debut EP, West Side Stories (the full-length album will be released soon), The Westies decided to close things out with an intimate performance for friends, and friends of those friends, in the small East Texas town of Murchison. Given the nature of the show, it would have been easy for the band to relax and “phone it in,” but that would have been criminal…even for a band named after a ruthless gang of Irish mob punks that ruled Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan in the 60′s. (For more background on the band, read Classic Rock Blog’s review of West Side Stories). Instead, The Westies staked their turf and battled the elements, not backing down on their quest to conquer music lovers with their “ameri-gangsta-cana” tales of love, betrayal and redemption.
In addition to playing songs from West Side Stories and a couple of tracks from McDermott’s solo records, The Westies performed four unreleased tunes that proved to be the highlight of the evening. The first, “If I Had a Gun,” traces a man’s turmoil as he tries to own up to the mistakes of his past. The intense lyrics, “If I had a gun, I might point it back at me,” were accompanied by fervent solos from Heather Horton (fiddle) and John Pirruccelo (electric guitar). Take any song on Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album and boost the intensity and energy ten-fold, and that’s what you have with “If I Had a Gun.”
Other new songs included the introspective “Parolee,” the romantic waltz “Full Moon Goodbye,” and “Broken from Birth,” a song about problems that we are born into the world with and the inner struggles they cause.
Nearing the 90 minute mark of the show, McDermott opted to play a song that he normally doesn’t perform with The Westies, his 1991 solo hit, “A Wall I Must Climb.” An obvious treat for long-time fans, there were plenty of camera flashes going off throughout the number. The band then launched into a rocking version of “A Deal With the Devil.”
With the climax of the show reached, and those in attendance all but forgetting about the chill, McDermott still wasn’t done. As the rest of the band exited the stage, McDermott took to the piano for one more song…the beautiful ballad, “Carry Your Cross.”
If Saturday night’s Westies performance proved anything, it’s that the group is warmed up and ready to go. So give this new band a listen and don’t let them fall off your radar…if you know what’s good for you!