Who would’ve thought that snow 640 miles west in Colorado, and 140 miles north, in Nebraska, could effect my concert plans so drastically? The agenda was worked out perfectly, the Grammy nominated Alabama Shakes were in Kansas City on Sunday night and the guitarist for my favorite group of all-time, Cracker, was in Lincoln, Nebraska on Monday, what could go wrong?
Having tickets to both shows well in advance I was primed for the concert doubleheader when my plans came crashing to a halt on Sunday morning. The Alabama Shakes got snowed in in Denver, Colorado and couldn’t make it to Kansas City for their show; easy solution, move the show back a day. This was fine for the venue and band but wreaked havoc on my schedule. To top things off Lincoln got about 8 inches of snow on Sunday, so driving conditions would be iffy at best when traveling north. Now I was stuck with tickets to two of my most anticipated shows of the year now happening at the same time, 200 miles apart. The Shakes ticket was more expensive but I had been waiting for Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman to play within driving distance for almost 10 years. Yes, the $12 ticket trumped the $35 ticket. I would go see Hickman in a bar with about 15 people and let the 1700 people at the Alabama Shakes show in Kansas City enjoy it for themselves.
The Rye Room is a very cool small venue in Lincoln. It has a good sized stage in a room that is sunken about four feet from the bar area making for a great view. The PA is about head high when on the upper level hanging from above the stage meaning the sound was great as well. The floor of the lower level was made up of past concert posters from the small venue and the larger adjacent Bourbon Theater. The posters were in a zig-zag pattern and clear-coated into the concrete floor making for a classy way of displaying them.
Johnny Hickman is the guitarist for the band Cracker and has several other smaller projects like his solo career, The Hickman-Dalton Gang and the now defunct All Thumbs Trio and Crazysloth. Cracker is best known for their 1994 radio hit “Low” but has made a ton of great music since that time. Joining Hickman was Ed Anderson on this tour. Anderson is the lead singer of Backyard Tire Fire and is involved in a few side projects of his own, most notably Magic Box, on top of just putting out his first solo release Lo-Fi Goodness.
The duo would take to the stage together and alternate songs throughout the night with short solo sets mixed in as well. Both musicians would be in high spirits despite the small crowd, keep in mind it was Lincoln, Nebraska on a Monday night. They would start with Hickman’s “Mr. Wrong” and then Anderson’s “Indie Hipster Taste-maker Wannabe” setting a not so serious tone for the show. The two artists would primarily focus on their songs from their respective solo albums; Hickman has two full length albums Palmhenge and Tilting that he would lean heavily on.
Ed Anderson would take the stage solo first and impress with his banjo playing complete with the customary stage stomping. He would start with the excellent “Tears at Bay” and end his set with the best performance of the entire night with the song “Bums In The Sun” about a thief, where he would display how powerful of vocalist he actually was. He would mix in an excellent cover of unknown Chicago band The Shams with “The Des Plaines River” and also take on Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down.”
Johnny Hickman would have fun with his solo set doing some of the strongest songs he has written; like “Lucky” and the requested “Little Tom” both off of his Palmhenge record. He would be at his most playful when singing a song about his wife in “Papa Johnny’s Arms” while strutting around the stage and hamming it up to the crowd. The finale would be Anderson and Hickman together once again doing a couple Cracker songs including a shocking performance of “Hey Bret” that was sung by Anderson in place of Cracker’s regular lead singer David Lowery. They would end with the classic touring song “Six Days on the Road” originally by Dave Dudley.
In the end I hated missing a band as talented as the Alabama Shakes but this show was a rare thing that may never happen again, while the chances of the Shakes coming around another time is pretty good. In a larger sense, small, intimate shows are always more enjoyable to me than a sold out theater show. You just can’t beat the interaction that you find at those kinds of shows. In reality; I never thought twice about which show I was going to see, it was a no-brainer.
Setlist for Ed Anderson and Johnny Hickman at The Rye Room in Lincoln, NE 3/11/13
Anderson and Hickman
- Mr. Wrong
- Indie Hipster Taste-maker Wannabe
- The Great Decline
- Whittled Down
- Tears At Bay
- The Des Plaines River (The Shams cover)
- Nothing Lasts Forever
- Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young cover)
- Bums In The Sun
Anderson and Hickman
- Not Enough
- Valentine’s Day
- Trials and Tribulations
- Papa Johnny’s Arms
- Little Tom
- San Bernadino Boy
Anderson and Hickman
- Taking It Out On You
- Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is?)
- Six Days on the Road (Dave Dudley cover)
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