Published Nov 01, 2005Anyone concerned over Alejandro Escovedo's personal health after his near-debilitating bout with Hepatitis C has much to rejoice about. His packed ElMo show, complete with a star-studded seven-piece band, served notice that he was back as a full-fledged force of nature, seemingly healthy, revitalised and altogether vital. Show opener was fellow True Believer and folk fascist Jon Dee Graham, looking quite gentile in his well-tailored suit before pummelling the audience with his eye-opening, real-life portraits carried on the strength of his gritty vocals and intricate, powerfully-delivered guitar work. Songs like "October" and "Faithless" painted a tasteful portrait of this popular Austin-based roots-rocker. Alejandro mounted the stage and tuned up as an elite cast of performers joined him, including Graham on electric guitar and lap slide, the rapturous Susan Voelz on violin, Brian Standefer on cello, Bruce Salmon on keyboards, Mark Andes on bass and Hector Munoz on drums. Kicking off in rock star proportions, Escovedo muscled his way through blistering takes of "Put You Down," "Baby's Got New Plans" and "Five Hearts Breaking" as if playing them for the first time, using the intoxicating spell woven by cello and violin, and the contrast provided by the might of Graham's sweeping guitar lines, forever blurring the lines between rock, alt-country and punk, if not theatre. Clearly having a ball, Escovedo revisited "Rosalie," the Joe Strummer-dedicated "Castanets," "Pissed Off 2 a.m." and a searing version of "Everybody Loves Me" before unloading all over "All The Young Dudes." New songs from a forthcoming John Cale-produced album were an equal delight: "Evita's Lullabye," "Arizona" "Died a Little Today." A break was taken but the band gave its all until late and Escovedo was eager to thank Toronto's for the efforts made on his behalf during precarious times. He's never sounded stronger and his musical personality has never more eloquently represented.