John Prine / Kelsey Waldon @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
Many years ago...before YouTube, before The Voice, before instant technology was readily available, musicians had to do things the old-fashioned way, live and in-person. All those years of grinding away have garnered Prine well-deserved praise from his peers, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, to name a few! Through bouts of cancer, career highs and lows, Prine has prevailed time and time again. John can take the simplest of conversations and situations and turn them into a song. Take for instance, “Egg and Daughter Nite” a popular song from the Tree of Forgiveness album. This song evolved from a conversation with a buddy on a fishing trip, a conversation very few would have converted into a song.

Before Prine begins his nearly two-hour set, Kelsey Waldon shares her songwriting abilities with the St. Louis audience. Waldon has been gathering a roots following over the past few years. Her songs very much resemble those of Prine’s, telling tales of daily observations. In 2016, Waldon’s song, “All by Myself” found a spot in NPR’s list of Top 100 Songs of 2016. Kelsey is currently opening in support of her new album, White Noise / White Lines on Prine’s Oh Boy label. If there is any doubt she is the real deal, take this in to consideration, Waldon is the first artist signed by Oh Boy Records in the past 15 years! The reaction of the audience was proof positive Miss Waldon had conquered the unenviable task of opening for a legend!

I could write for days on the intricate simplicities of a John Prine song but we don’t have enough time or cyberspace for that, so I’ll keep it simple. A 120-minute performance is barely enough time to cover a 50-year career, but then again packing a lot into a little is Prine’s specialty! This show was extra special as it celebrated a few things. This was John’s make up show that was postponed in May, due to a health scare. It was also a belated 73rd birthday celebration, noted by several shouts of “Happy Birthday John” throughout the night. And a celebration of new music, the troubadour’s first in over 13 years! But not losing sight of the classics that made him famous, he covers “Bruised Orange”, “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”, and the first song he sang publicly, “Sam Stone”. After various hollers of fan favorites from the audience, one voice sums it up perfectly, “play whatever you want, John!”

Prine notes the power of music at the conclusion of the humorous, “That’s the Way That the World Goes Round.” He informs us that this song was originally written as a sad song. While his talented band takes a break, Kelsey Waldon returns for a duet on “In Spite of Ourselves” and “Unwed Fathers”. Prine’s sense of humor is not only reserved for his songs but also during a guitar change he said, “I change guitars so one doesn’t get jealous of the other.” Showing no signs of slowing, John closes the main set dancing off stage right to the closing notes of “Lake Marie”.

Being a seasoned performer, Prine makes his audience work for an encore but it was oh so worth it! Complete with a kazoo chorus, “When I Get to Heaven” has John speculating on what he’ll do when he reaches paradise in the afterlife. This night ends way too soon with Waldon returning to harmoniously pair with Prine’s gravelly voice on “Paradise”. One can only hope that John has many more years of entertaining left in him. But if the end is near he’s certainly going out on top! A big thanks to Mr. Prine’s management for allowing MTC access to this great show! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the staff of the Stifel Theatre for being a most accommodating host!

Photos of the show are below:

Kelsey Waldon
John Prine
Contributed by Duane Clawson
John Prine / Kelsey Waldon @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO John Prine / Kelsey Waldon @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on October 20, 2019 Rating: 5
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