Entertainment behind the scenes
Fans still have “a little faith” in John Hiatt
Not so long ago, John Hiatt was assured of a packed house whenever the acclaimed Nashville singer/songwriter ventured out to Los Angeles every year or so. The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip was often the scene of many raucous, sweaty sing-alongs, but times have changed.
Monday night, a few hundred fans — including long-time devotee, radio comic Adam Carolla — turned up at the 1,000-capacity venue in West Hollywood to watch Hiatt and his three-man band, the Ageless Beauties.
The two-hour show was designed to promote Hiatt’s new album, “Same Old Man,” and he performed a few well-received tunes from the disc, including “Old Days,” a witty remembrance of his dues-paying gigs opening for icons like John Lee Hooker and Sonny Terry.
But, inevitably, it was the old stuff that people wanted. And he obliged with such tunes as “Tennessee Plates,” “Crossing Muddy Waters,” “Cry Love,” the Bonnie Raitt-popularized “Thing Called Love” and “Have a Little Faith in Me.” He even reworked some of the lyrics of “Slow Turning” for the benefit of a beaming Carolla in the gallery.
But it was hard not to notice the sparsely populated main floor and the empty bar areas around the sides.
“We know times are tough, and dollars are stretched. So thank you for spending them on us,” Hiatt said at one point.
Other factors may have contributed to slow sales of the reasonably priced $37.50 tickets: it was a Monday, after all, and the once-hot House of Blues has lost some of its cachet. City officials have met to consider suspending the 14-year-old club’s license following several brawls.
Or maybe Hiatt’s just not a “must-see” act? Skip him this time, but see him again next year, or in 2010, safe in the knowledge that he will deliver the goods?
Hiatt, for one, is not afraid of the recession. He’s seen a few in a recording career spanning almost 35 years. He’s happily ensconced at a small label, New West Records, and owns his copyrights and masters.
“People have to be ‘record men’ again,” he told me in June, over breakfast at the Four Seasons. “They actually have to earn a living. I’ve never seen people take more vacations than these big record company people. It’s great to see people who actually love the music back in business in these smaller concerns.”
Reporting by Dean Goodman