Delta Spirit in Boston

Matthew Shelter on December 3, 2012

Delta Spirit
House of Blues
Boston, MA
November 28

Matt Vazquez and the rest of Delta Spirit closed out their fall tour with a, well, spirited show at Boston’s House of Blues. These guys have been on the road for a while, and it showed (in a good way). Vazquez was appropriately unshaven and rumpled as he took the stage, looking like he’s been living in a van down by the river. But Delta Spirit has been making a name for itself hanging out on the ragged edges where rock and roll lives, and the cuts and bruises of the road seem to spur them on more than drag them down.

After a prolonged intro that began with the band off-stage, Vazquez and co. kicked things off with a pair of songs from their self-titled third album, released earlier this year: “Money Saves” and “Idaho.” At times it seems as if Vazquez looks on these songs (the whole band shares in the songwriting credits) as a form of primal scream therapy. There must be a lot going on under that roiled surface, for he sings as if he really feels every word. One of the few slower songs of the night, “Ransom Man,” was dedicated by Vazquez to “the ghost of Ted Williams.” The band had toured Fenway Park earlier in the day, so they must have picked up some of The Kid’s vibe. Delta Spirit can’t handle too much slow stuff, so they quickly followed with “Empty House,” the opening track on Delta Spirit. This song includes what may be one of my favorite lyric lines of the year, simply because it tells a tale in so few words: “I got this limp/from a favor I did/some folks don’t like charity.” It’s the kind of line The Band would write.

Another stand-out was “White Table.” Vazquez prefaced the song by saying the House of Blues had called him up before the show and said it would be okay for everyone to smoke pot during this song. I’m really not sure this is something the House of Blues would do, although Massachusetts did just pass a medical marijuana initiative, so maybe it was connected with that in some way. It was a sprawling, torn-and-frayed version of the song, one of the best on the band’s 2010 album History From Below, and Vazquez punctuated it by hurling a cup of beer out over the audience (ah, to be at the front of the crowd).

The band closed out the set with a couple of older songs – “Crippler King” and “Trashcan” – before returning for a three-song encore that included “California” and a very spiritual version of “People Turn Around.” Delta Spirit appeared to be running on sheer willpower at that point, but it was more than enough to get them over the finish line.