Billy Joe Shaver performed in Dallas with Flatland Calvary as a strong opening act.
Cleto Cordero and Laura Jane of Flatland Calvary began the night with a well-received acoustic set. Cordero is forging his strong writing skills into some solid material and could easily be next in a long line of Texas Troubadours. He was accompanied by the lovely and talented Laura on fiddle. Look for them to keep moving up.
Billy Joe Shaver walked on stage with no introductionÂ but didn’t need one as every person was there specifically see him play after being off for six months with a leg injury. Everyone had a great seat in the intimate setting of the beautiful Kessler Theater.
He started out with an acapella ode to America that set the tone for the night. Billy Joe, the original country outlaw, captured the crowd with his stories that told the genesis of each song. One story was about a ready, willing, and able bar owner named Blanche that led into “Honky Tonk Heroes.” “That’s What She Said” about his triple ex-wife (who he said was the dumbass for marrying him three times) and “Wacko In Waco” about how he shot a man in the face a few years ago for insulting him both proved that he lived the songs he wrote.
Billy Joe spoke openly of his religious conversion, which also yielded hits such hits as “I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)” and the finale, “You Just Can’t Beat Jesus Christ.” This also endeared him to his fans and plentiful family members in the audience. He also embraced his 76 years of living by taking off his cowboy hat and stroking his silver hair many times as a badge of honor.
Mr. Shaver has written thousands of songs over his fifty-year career and has been covered by such greats as Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and a host of other stars, both established and up-and-coming. He also had hits with Texas Country and Blues songs such as “When The Word Was Thunderbird,” “I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train,” “I’ll Love You As Much As I Can,” and “Old Five And Dimers Like Me” and played them to a receptive and enthralled audience as they knew and sang along with every word.
Billy Joe has become a consummate entertainer over the years, combining his masterful writing skills and colorful storytelling with a honky tonk background. He writes what he knows and feels, so it’s a wonder his songs are so positive and upbeat considering the five marriages, the overdose of his talented guitarist/son, Eddy Shaver, his own struggles with drugs and alcohol, and a heart attack he suffered while performing on stage. He got through it all, describing himself as “a tough son of a bitch.” To really round out his talents, he also sings the theme song for the “Squidbillies,” an animated children’s TV show.
One of his favorite sayings is, “God loves you when you dance,” and he danced every chance he got. When Jeremy Woodall would play one of his outstanding guitar solos, Billy Joe would dance onstage to a two-step or some other nightclub strut. It is likely he danced offstage when Jason McKenzie took his turn for a great drum solo that included his bare feet and a couple of unknown percussion instruments. Nick Gaitan filled out the quartet with a steady bass fiddle.
If you want to be treated well, please see a show at the Kessler Theater. Anytime you can see Billy Joe in person, do it; you won’t be disappointed. Billy Joe Shaver has the soul of a poet and the showmanship of a honky tonk singer all neatly wrapped up in a humble Christian who once shot a man in the face for insulting him!
Special thanks are due to Melissa, Jeffrey, and Garrett for taking care of us at the Kessler.
National Rock Review photographer, Joe Guzman, was on hand to capture the event.