Performing in the put-up-or-shut-up framework of a solo acoustic showcase on Friday at McCabe's, singer/guitarist T Bone Burnett proved himself as humorous as devil worship and as serious as nuclear waste. The long tall Texan opened the first of two shows with his best, i.e., least affected song, "River of Love," and closed the 90-minute set by walking out onto Pico Boulevard to serenade the waiting late-show crowd with a campfire sing-along of "Kumbaya."
In between, Burnett played pop, country, blues, and rock, ranging from the marks-his-Lennonisms of "Killer Moon" to two deja-vu versions of the standard "Where or When." A superb raconteur, Burnett sparred good-naturedly with the too-adoring crowd ("Don't underestimate us!" "Don't underestimate me " was one memorable exchange.) In a more subtle illumination of talent, Burnett (currently most successful as a producer of Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, et al.) displayed a casual mastery of the art of accompanying oneself on guitar. Always a pleasure to see a small room suck 'n' spit the excess artifice out of an artiste.