words by Eric Engelbart
Southern rock titans Lucero ended the current leg of their Women & Work tour with a bang at Turner Hall on Friday night. Lucero are famous for their uproarious live shows, and they didn’t disappoint a crowd chock-full of devout fans.
When a band reinvents its sound, it runs the risk of losing old fans in favor of finding new ones. Lucky for Lucero, their evolution has proven to ingratiate them further into their old fans hearts while opening up new avenues of exposure.
Early on in their discography, Lucero had a stripped down sound that relied on the gravelly, gruff, genuine voice of singer Ben Nichols to set them apart from the alt-country pack. With 2009’s 1372 Overton Park and last year’s Women & Work, Lucero has filled out their sound, most notably with the addition of a horn section and increasingly polished production, and the band is better off for it.
Ben Nichols is the heart and soul of the band, and has a stage presence to a modern day Johnny Cash. When he took the stage on stage Friday with the rest of the band, it inspired howls of joy from an enthusiastically inebriated audience. The band had a bit to drink as well, and as the night progressed, the set transformed into an intimate, ineffably memorable musical experience.
The band opened their set with “That Much Further West,” which has been a staple of the band’s live show for years. The song builds from an intimate acoustic opening to a bombastic and joyous climax. The addition of the horns, a keyboard, and a slide guitar, the song transcended its studio recording, and kicked the night off in excellent form.
Lucero’s rollicking cover of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle” was another highlight of the night. The song’s opening guitar riff was greeted with applause, and as the song progressed the crowd tried to keep up with Nichols’ rapid delivery vocals.
Seeing Lucero live is an otherworldly experience. Even members of the audience who were unfamiliar with their diverse song catalog were bound to be won over by their live show and be back for more the next time they’re in town. Let’s hope they come back to Milwaukee soon.