Warren Zevon turned 53 early in 2000. He was doing a lot of touring that year to support Life’ll Kill Ya, which was released towards the end of 1999. He didn’t yet know he had lung cancer. That would come a little bit later.
Along with his acoustic guitar and an electronic keyboard, Zevon traveled the country in a camper, hitting a well-honed list of friendly towns, and all the faithful would show up. Zevon’s audience had dwindled over the years, but in 2000 he was in the early stages of a creative resurgence. And his playing was generally energetic and creative. He was on an upswing.
Thanks to the generosity and forethought of his son Jordan, much of Zevon’s available recorded live performances are available for free on the Live Music Archive. We’ve looked at some Zevon recordings from 1978 before. Today we’ll take a look at a few solo performances from 2000, starting with “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” from the Moore Theater in Seattle on April 22, 2000. A great recording and a vocally playful delivery of the song.
In the Crystal Zevon biography of her husband, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Bonnie Raitt said she thought he was “at the top of his game” when she saw him in Dublin that year. She wasn’t the only observer to say that. And like many of his fellow musicians, she felt he was “one of our great artists.” His songwriting skills are certainly undeniable.
Here are four other selections – each one a great song – from dates in 2000:
A gorgeous song from his first record, with the brilliant chorus: “Carmelita, hold me tight. I think I’m sinking down. And I’m all strung out on heroin, on the outskirts of town.” What is it about heroin that makes it such an interesting subject for songs?
At one point he’s got five or so loops repeating, and he’s sort of soloing over it. Does that vocal thing that rap guy did [You mean the Human Beat Box? -ed.]. The coolest version of that song I’ve heard. From Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. It starts with “Grandpa pissed his pants again / He don’t give a damn / Brother Billy has both guns drawn / he ain’t been right since Vietnam,” and goes on to tell the story of a farming family down on its luck, and the narrator buries himself in booze and Lynyrd Skynyrd to get away from the awfulness of it.
3. Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London / Back In the High Life Again” (Customs House in the UK May 29, 2000)
Couldn’t resist. Had to include this version because it includes a Steve Winwood cover.
4. Warren Zevon – “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” (BBC Studios, May 25, 2000)
A new song at the time, with the same kind of weight as the earlier work he was playing at this time. Part of an BBC recording session with interview segments as well.