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Pop Music Review

Among Friends, Zevon Skewers Pop Conventions

March 31, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS

"I haven't seen this many people I know in one place since they dragged me off to rehab all those years ago," joked Warren Zevon on Tuesday as he surveyed an appreciative hometown crowd at the House of Blues.

In a 90-minute solo set, the irreverent singer-songwriter, 53, featured songs from "Life'll Kill Ya," his first new album in five years, along with selections spanning his 30-year career. His wry insights and bizarre stories may have gained some wisdom with age, but he still adeptly skewers both pop conventions and his own image as iconoclastic survivor.

Zevon's twisted viewpoint and casual caricatures of the music and pseudo-mystical conceits of artists such as Bob Dylan, the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen merged to highly entertaining effect in such new songs as "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down," as well as such classics as "Excitable Boy," a deadpan tale of a sociopath that vastly predates Eminem's similar stories. Yet his satire could also be genuinely touching, as reflected in the offbeat honesty of the lonely magician's lament "For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer."

Some fans shouted requests he didn't play, but the real disappointment was the absence of a band to flesh out the songs. Still, Zevon played guitar, harmonica and keyboards with such verve that you scarcely noticed he was alone, save for a duet with opening act Jill Sobule on the Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood hit "Jackson," during which old friend Jackson Browne briefly appeared.

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