Lucero transforms from rowdy roadhouse band into an act worthy of playing arenas

Lucero • Shooter Jennings and Hierophant
Bluebird Theater | 04.13.10

Before Hierophant took the stage, the house lights went dim, and all that remained was a green hue washing over the stage. As the band members took their places, an audio track played of an unknown DJ, broadcasting his last pirate radio show, as soldiers fought in the streets outside of his window.

The DJ goes on to say that he is going to play a revolutionary band, the one band that governments doesn't want him to play. As it happens, the band in question is Hierophant. This may seem like a grand entrance for an opening act, but when you're fronted by Shooter Jennings, son of legendary country singer, Waylon, its oddly appropriate.

Shooter, like his dad, was previously known for being a country music singer, releasing three solo albums, including the hilariously titled, Put the 'O' Back In Country, in 2005. Hierophant, meanwhile, although tough to nail down exactly what genre it belongs in, is anything but country.

Mixing southern rock with psycadelic grooves with just a touch of stoner metal, Shooter Jennings and Hierophant blistered through prog-inspired sludginess when Shooter was playing his flying v, then spouted out Allman inspired '70s ballads when he switched to keyboard.

This took place every other song as a clumsy roadie kept having to run out and hand guitars and keyboard stools to Shooter frequently, nearly crashing into him every time. Hierophant may be tough to absorb for a fan waiting to see the familiar hooks of a band like Lucero, but "Shooter and the boys" should be proud of the original and challenging music they create.

As Lucero took the stage, there were notable changes other than Roy Berry and John C. Stubblefield's massive beards. For six albums, the band was a four-piece, rounded out by Brian Venable and affable front man Ben Nichols.

On the bands latest, 1372 Overton Park, the band added Todd Beene on pedal steel, Rick Steff on keys and, perhaps most notably, a horn section. Eight musicians in total walked on the stage under a giant Lucero banner that made old school fans immediately realize they were in store for something different.

The band ripped into "Smoke" the first track off Overton Park, also the bands major label debut. On record, the intro comes off as slightly lacking drive and is reminiscent of Billy Joel. Live at the Bluebird, however, the track sounded powerful and alive, as if the E-Street band was playing behind a curtain.

The new instrumentation also gave classics like "That Much Further West" and "Last Night in Town" new life and depth, propelling the band from a rowdy and beer drenched roadhouse band, to an act worthy of playing sold out arenas.

At one point, Ben traded his guitar for a bottle of Jameson, while singing the boozy ballad, "Goodbye to You." He stopped only to take swigs straight from the bottle and occasionally hack and cough loudly, still trying to shake off the previous night's party in Ft. Collins in which he got "fucking obliterated."

Good to see some things never change.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I did not want to like the horns in the old Lucero songs, but this old skeptic was won over Random Detail: Rick Steff plays accordion on the last Chad Price album By the Way: Todd Beene is the pedal steel player for the Revival Tour