Wade Bowen’s current single “Saturday Night” (Sea Gayle/BNA) bears the refrain “So why does everybody love Saturday night/Stale smell of beer and the smoke in your eyes/I keep sittin’ and drinkin’ and thinkin’ ‘bout a sad good-bye/So tell me why is everybody so in love with Saturday night?” It’s an inversion of the usual party-hearty weekend theme found in popular country songs, set to a jangling, uptempo track. It works really well because, let’s face it, the weekend sucks when you’re alone and brokenhearted.
That marriage of darker subject matter to gritty, driving country rock is a particular strength of Bowen’s, and he was in fine form when he played Nashville’s Exit-In last Thursday (Feb. 9) with Charlie Worsham and Striking Matches. Backed by his usual six-piece band, the beloved Texas artist debuted songs from his upcoming BNA Records album and spirited versions of his older material.
The set kicked off with “God Bless This Town,” a bitter take on the gossip and narrow-mindedness that plagues small town dwellers. He originally recorded the song in 2006, but has re-recorded it for the new album. Other new songs included “All That’s Left,” “Say Anything,” and the rocking “Patch of Bad Weather.”
Years of playing hundreds of dates have given Bowen a commanding stage presence, and he’s built a great chemistry with his band. As a unit, they excel in building the suspense for each new song.
Failed relationships were a popular topic in the evening’s selections, and they range from the haunted memory ballad “Ghost In This Town,” to the done-me-wrong kiss off “Nobody’s Fool,” and breakup aftermath tale “You Had Me At My Best.” He even touched on the casualties of alcoholism in “Daddy And The Devil.” Pretty grim stuff, but the crowd loved it.
Fans were also treated to a special appearance by Dave Loggins, whose “Please Come To Boston” is a staple of Bowen’s live sets. Loggins joined the band onstage for a verse and chorus of the song before turning the stage back over.
Bowen closed out his main set with the cathartic and triumphant “Resurrection,” which ought to feel familiar to anyone who’s ever endured a bad breakup. “We’ve all been there,” he said. “If you haven’t, you’re not living like you should.”
For his encore, he played an acoustic “Before These Walls Were Blue” accompanied by vocalist Jessica Murray. He closed out the evening with one more poison-arrow anthem called “Beat Me Down,” accompanied by the song’s co-writer Sean McConnell and a pack of rowdy music lovers pumping their fists in time.
Being bummed out never felt so good.