Langhorne Slim is an Americana dreamboat, a gritty tattooed maestro of musical sweetness. All alone on the Swedish American Hall stage Tuesday night, he conducted what felt like a ceremony, dedicated in all earnestness to love. “Love is alive,” he intoned in his opening monologue*, a conclusion arrived upon earlier in the day while “shvitzing” at the Kabuki spa in Japantown.

Playing a host of tracks off his most recent release, last November’s Lost At Last Vol. 1, Slim offered a 14-song set plus four encore songs, leaving the crowd hungry for still more. Considering it’s only a three-month-old album, I was impressed to see how many tracks with which the crowd was already familiar enough to sing along.

“Funny Feeling” (dedicated in its credits to blues musicians Junior Kimbrough and Ted Hawkins) was the first peak of music-to-crowd alignment. 300+ attendees bouncing and clapping, Slim’s voice lilting in a Cat Stevens-style, and all of us in boisterous harmony shout-singing an extended outro, “Then I’d have somebody to love!”

Slim has a masterful ability — no doubt honed over years of heavy touring — to thread his songs and banter into a clear vision. Through his eyes, for that 90 minutes, we see a whole world, and every detail speaks to it. He could as well be singing our songs as his own, assuming it is “us” at our strongest and most tender. “You can break my bones and break my heart but you can’t break me,” he cried out during opening song “Never Break” — singing back on our behalf to that existential suffering that hangs around anyone lucky enough to get older.

Getting old was another of Slim’s themes for the evening. “The only thing I wanted to be (as a kid) was exactly what I am, but old,” he told us before launching into a moving ode to his best friend and late grandfather Sid, “Song for Sid.” “Tell me, where do the great ones go when they’re gone?”

Towards the end of the set, the delightfully poetic songwriter and opening act, Twain, joined Slim for a few songs and the two orchestrated another peak moment repeating the first four lines from Dionne Warwick’s classic “What the world needs now is love.” The crowd sang at the top of their lungs.

A few minutes later, however, when the crowd exited the venue, an apparently homeless woman in some kind of crisis blocked the doorway. I watched as some of the night’s attendees waited on the stairs, afraid to pass. Others tossed snickering side glances, or rolled their eyes and walked on. Still others acted as if she didn't exist.

It was frustrating to witness a crowd only too happy to sing about love unwilling to acknowledge the need for love right in front of their eyes. Kudos to the Noise Pop and Swedish American Hall staff who attended to the woman’s needs and made sure she got the care she was requesting. I think we'd all do well to remember that love is an action best practiced in those situations when we are least interested in doing so.

Noise Pop continues all this week, while Slim stays in the Bay Area for a few more days: North to JaM Cellars in Napa Thursday night, Don Quixote’s in Felton on Friday, and Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento on Saturday night. More details here.

(*The word vagina was also, respectfully and almost accidentally, said three times before the first song, a fact which Slim later said might make this the best show he’s ever performed.)

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