(As published in B-Side magazine, sometime in 1995...)
The Metropolis, Lafayette, LA
May 4, 1995
"We're going to do a couple of songs now about something that's not everything but that's way ahead of whatever's in second place--money."
With that, Alex Chilton, who these days looks and sounds about two decades younger than his forty-three years, launched into "Money Talks," followed by "I Will Turn Your Money Green." The message of both songs, that money can in fact buy happiness, was belied by the details of Chilton's surroundings: to call the Metropolis a "hole" would be to insult holes. "Basement" is more like it, although, since the sea level in Louisiana precludes subterranean construction, the Metropolis is "underground" in a figurative sense only. Add to this that the venue inhabits a downtown that resembles a ghost town even during business hours, that Chilton took the stage after midnight, and that no more than seventy-five people inhabited the club at any one point during the evening and you have anything but a recipe for cash flow.
In other words, if Alex Chilton really thinks money talks, he has a funny way of showing it.
Nevertheless, he, his bassist Ron Easely, and his drummer Brian Barbaro played and sang, if not like Big Star, then at least like big stars, winding their way through eighteen songs and two encores that found Chilton every bit as invigorated and eclectic as his last decade of recordings. The song list drew from Feudalist Tarts (three songs), High Priest (two), 1994's all-standards/all-acoustic Cliches (one), Chilton's still-untitled forthcoming Ardent release (two), and his vast knowledge of the nooks and crannies of several generations of pop music.
He bypassed the Box Tops, but Big Star's "In the Street" received a lively treatment. And speaking of lively treatments, Chilton turned "My Bonnie"--as in "lies over the ocean"-- into a jazzy blues that more than held its own immediately following "Il Rebel," a manic '50s rocker from "the Italian Elvis," Adriano. "He's an electrifying performer," Chilton explained. "He's tabloid material in Italy."
Chilton, of course, is tabloid material only to the rock 'n' roll fringe, even now in his fourth decade of making great music. And he really does make great music. His guitar, perhaps the least remarked-upon aspect of his arsenal, rings with a clarity and warmth missing in these cold, grungy times. He also plays with the virtuosity of two or more guitarists and makes doing so look easy.
But in addition to making great music, he also makes music great. "My Bonnie" and "Il Rebel" were only the surface. What other viable performer, after all, could make eighty minutes of blues, "Volare," Jan and Dean, and "Alligator Man" sound like the future of rock 'n' roll in the dead of night from the tiny stage of a dive so sleazy the locals call it the Mecrapolis?