REVIEW

 

WARREN ZEVON
I'm Not So Think As You Drunk I Am 1978 [no label 1CD]
Live at The Cellar Door, Washington DC, on Mar 8-9 1978. He is appropriately sloshed. Ex SBD

Recorded during Zevon’s Exciteable Boy tour in early 1978, this show in DC is not one of those recounted or remembered with horror and dismay in the pages of I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, wife Crystal Zevon’s memoir of the madness. Which means, saints preserve us, that this was probably one of the more unremarkable nights on that ill-starred outing.

As befits the legend, Zevon is just drunk enough to slur his words, without completely forgetting them, and the band is even-tempered enough to work around his occasional lapses. But still it’s hard to shake the impression that we’re witnessing the last days of a once-great songwriter, as opposed to the formative years of a genius that was still to reach full bloom.

An apparently small, but so indulgent audience applauds in all the right places, and doesn’t take Zevon’s intoxication personally. And they are rewarded well, with a set that opens with "Exciteable Boy," that oozes across an impossibly fluid "Nighttime In The Switching Yard," and lurches through an almost hymnal "Roland," while you can readily excuse the beery bellicosity of his vocal when he hits a deliciously dissolute "Lawyers, Guns and Money." Indeed, if this was a Shane MacGowan album, you’d probably be bouncing off the ceiling by now.

"I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead" and "Johnny Strikes Up The Band" are both here, together with the inevitable "Werewolves Of London," repositioned to Georgetown and drawing a cacophony of answering howls from the dancefloor. And, if there’s any downside to the whole experience, it’s the sound quality that spends most of its time in absolute splendor, but is subject to the occasional lapses of its own, sliding down a few sonic notches, warbling and wobbling for no apparent reason - hey, just like the star of the show, in fact!

There’s not many genuine documents of the early live Zevon out there, so this one is all the more precious for that. But it may also tell you the reason why no-one’s bothered with a Warren concert box set. - Dave Thompson

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December 7, 2007