Review of Cowboy Junkies at the 20th Century Theatre - 4/24/12

Apr 25, 2012

For many people, mid-life is a time of crisis. For the Cowboy Junkies, it is filled with inspiration.

The veteran Canadian band thoroughly entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the 20th Century in Oakley Tuesday night with a mixture of new and old tunes. The new ones came from “The Nomad Series,” the band’s ambitious 18-month project that produced four CDs.

For most groups, something of that scope would call for a period of rest and relaxation. For the Junkies, however, the release of “The Wilderness,” the last album in the set, was just the beginning of a four-month tour that features two sets each night.

Tuesday’s menu kicked off with “Sing in My Meadow,” the title track from the third “Nomad” CD. Or as singer Margo Timmins called it, “the Cowboy Junkies’ rock album.” Rock it did, too, with guitarist Mike Timmins and mandolinist Jeff Bird coaxing reverb-heavy sounds from their strings while drummer Pete Timmins and bass player Alan Anton kept the tempo a few beats quicker than most a Junkies’ tunes.

Margo was a gracious hostess, explaining the concept behind each of the “Nomad” albums, and adding family anecdotes about her 9-year-old son’s entrepreneurial spirit and her mother’s preference for “The Wilderness,” because she “can hear every word.”

After intermission, it was time for the fans’ favorites from the band’s almost 25-year catalog, starting with Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” a cover that the Junkies have made into their own. From a slowly built crescendo by Mike and Bird, Margo wrapped Reed’s words languidly around the familiar notes.

It was an exquisite start to an energetic performance of tunes that the group has played hundreds of times. “Common Disaster,” “Anniversary Song” and “Misguided Angel” seemed as fresh as they must have when they were the new songs of the day.

The quintet returned for a two-song encore as the evening ended with the final song on the final album of “The Nomad Series,” the Canadians’ declaration about how they feel about their country’s weather: “... I Hate the Cold.” They don’t just hate it, they (expletive) really hate it.

But the cold is gone for now, replaced by a warm reception on a warm spring night in Cincinnati.