John Prine Showcases His Talents

September 9th, 2013

John Prine – Beacon Theatre – September 6, 2013

Since the release of his self-titled debut album in 1971, singer-songwriter John Prine has enjoyed a productive career and honed a unique songwriting style with an ability to oscillate between light, humorous themes and serious, downcast fare. At the Beacon Theatre on Friday night, Prine showcased material from both ends of the emotional spectrum, from the easygoing twang of opening song “Spanish Pipedream” followed by the nostalgic “Picture Show” and the slowed-down, heavy hearted “Humidity Built the Snowman.” Those in the crowd remained rapt throughout each tonal shift, often shouting requests in between songs, or simply imploring, “play all night!”

Although he didn’t oblige this last request, the show covered a range of crowd favorites, including a lovely mandolin-tinged “Angel from Montgomery,” a brisk and lively “Fish and Whistle,” and the political “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore,” which calls out patriotic hypocrisy and “just won’t seem to go out of style,” according to Prine. An affable presence, he spoke with jovial familiarity, cracking jokes at his own expense—“that song took less time to write than it does to sing,” he said of the humorous “Dear Abby”—and peppering the set with anecdotes about his childhood and career.

For the closing songs, Prine and his band selected a poignant doubleheader from his debut album: “Hello in There,” about the realities of time and aging, and the wistful “Paradise,” on which he was joined by the night’s openers, Rosanne Cash and guitarist John Leventhal. He may not have played all night, as some had hoped, but Prine treated the audience to a showcase of his extensive catalog and skillful songwriting. —Alena Kastin