On Tour With Bobby Long... Sort Of

Article first published on Blogcritics--http://blogcritics.org/music/article/on-tour-with-bobby-long-sort1/

We’ve all thought about it before, I think: just leaving it all behind and taking off to embrace the open road, to follow that dream of youth, and to live free, devoid of the constraints of jobs and responsibilities. To actually do this, for many, is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I can tell you from my own experience, it’s absolutely worth it.

For three days my friend and I followed singer/songwriter Bobby Long and his band as they toured through the Midwest. Three days of no responsibility other than get to the venue on time. There were no kids or husbands or jobs and bosses, no ringing phones or emails that required answering. Our biggest decision of the day was where we were going to eat, or whether we wanted bottle or draft.

We slept very little, we drank lots of beer, ate greasy food to settle uneasy stomachs, and we met some amazing people -forging friendships that will last a lifetime.

Our journey began in Columbus, Ohio, where we said goodbye to our loved ones and hello to adventure. Landscape, by chantal stoneWe drove west to Indianapolis, the first stop on our mini-tour. Bobby Long performed at Radio Radio, located in the historic Fountain Square district, an area that’s enjoying a revival of sorts with its many eclectic restaurants, bars, theaters and shops. We perused an old record store where I bought a near-mint-condition Joan Baez album, some Jimmy Smith, and a rare Miles Davis.

After an amazing show, we hit the highway again, energized by the music and passing city lights. We ate at an all-night diner and dozed for a bit in the car at a truck stop before finally giving in to slumber’s call and getting a room a cheap motel off the interstate. With only a few hours of restless sleep, we were anxious to make our next stop: Chicago.

The Indiana landscape passed us by with its expansive plains and impressive wind farms which made way to abandoned factories and skeletal stockyards. Soon the Chicago skyline was on the horizon.

It was still early when we arrived, maybe four o’clock, but I don’t think either of us paid attention to the time. We were just excited for the night’s concert at Schuba’s, an authentic Chicago tavern located in the Lake View district, housed in a gorgeous 100-year-old gothic-style building. We ate and relaxed a bit, then took a walk around the neighborhood before settling again at the bar, waiting for the sold-out show to begin. It was another incredible concert. Bobby and his band were on fire and so were we, singing along to every song, letting the music consume us and pulse through our bodies.

Shortly after the show and a few conversations with some new friends and band members, we hit the road once again, south, back home to Columbus. We watched as early dawn rose before us on breathtaking landscape. Home, yes, but our adventure was not yet over. It was our final destination, as Bobby Long had another concert that night at The Basement in Columbus’ trendy, up-and-coming Arena District.

A stop at the house to shower, change and hug the family and we were out again. And this night, everything was different. Maybe it was the nap we took in real, clean beds. Maybe it was the fact that were on our own turf. It could have just been the beer. It was probably none of those things. It was just Bobby Long and his band, pure and simple. They were simply amazing in Columbus. And the crowd was insane: cheering, clapping, and singing along to every word. Bobby Long has fans all across the world, but he must know that he’s got a home here in Columbus, with many hardcore fans who love his music.

Each night opened with the song Two Years Old, which starts out sort of low and mellow, then bursts into an explosion of sound that caused the crowd to go nuts. Bobby Long, by chantal stoneThen in each city, they played songs off the new album A Winter Tale, sometimes varying the song order, or adding a new song like the sad and melodic It’s Hard to Take, or the belty, hit-in-the-making Devil Moon. Each night ended with the lullaby, Dead and Done which was more of a group effort as the crowd sang along to Bobby’s poetic words.

If you’ve seen Bobby Long in concert before and are expecting his mellow, croony solo performance, then don’t fret. He still sings a handful of songs on his own, and it’s still just as intimate as it was a year or two ago. But the band - Mark Stepro, Chris Morrissey, and Rich Hinman - supply the perfect backdrop to Bobby’s already near-perfect songs. You won’t be disappointed.

Never mind his British upbringing, Bobby Long’s very American music was the perfect soundtrack to our trek across the Heartland. His music is both down-home Blues and edgey Rock; at times it’s thoughtful Folk, and at others it can be Country that would keep Johnny Cash’s toes tapping. Each performance, each night, was electric.

I may not be a rock star, but for one long weekend I lived like one. And I was exhausted afterward. Would I do it again? You bet. The open road, music blaring through the speakers, noisy bars filled with friendly faces – such is the life. And it’s just my luck that Bobby Long will be touring again my way in another month!

Catch him in a city near you:
Feb 23 Divan - Montreal, CA
Feb 24 Higher Ground - Burlington, VT
Feb 25 Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME
Feb 26 Brighton Music Hall - Boston, MA
Feb 26 Newbury Comics Faneuil Hall (in-store appearance) - Boston MA
Feb 28 Iron Horse - Northampton, MA
Mar 1 Otto Bar - Baltimore, MD
Mar 3 Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
Mar 4 World Café - Philedelphia, PA
Mar 5 Jammin Java - Washington, DC

For more tour dates, including Australia and Europe, visit his website at www.bobbylong.info