Joe Ely Does "Dallas," In Dallas

Categories: Music


What you see above is a Jeff Liles-filmed two-fer from Joe Ely's extraordinary, intimate "Storytellers" performance at the Kessler last night: Dig All Night's "Behind the Bamboo Shade" followed by Ely's rendition of the immortal "Dallas," penned by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and originally released as the one and lonely Flatlanders single in 1972. I've heard the latter hundreds of times -- performed by, among others, Gilmore, Ely, the Flatlanders, Jack Ingram, even David Byrne and 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M., Robyn Hitchcock and Billy Bragg. And always it hits me as The Perfect Song about our city -- just the right amount of flattery and damnation.

It's too bleak, too honest to serve as An Official Anthem, of course -- that part about how Dallas is "a steel and concrete soul with a warm-hearted love disguise, a rich man who tends to believe in his own lies" just ain't catchy enough to fit into a convention and visitors bureau promo. Still, I think school children should have to sing it in class every morning, right after they say the Texas Pledge of Allegiance. It should be the telephone hold music at City Hall. It should be sung before every Mavericks game and mayoral debate.

I've heard Ely perform the song in other cities -- in Austin a few times, even once in L.A. But when he sings it here, he does so in front of an audience that knows (most of) the words, that's in on the joke hiding behind the performer's grin. (It's like hearing X perform "Los Angeles" in Los Angeles -- it just makes sense.) A highlight in a set full of 'em last night -- like I told the man afterward, Joe Ely's the Texan I wish I was writing about the Texas I wish I lived in.
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Tracy
Tracy

Hey, Robert, I was at the show. When you came out, I thought you were going to sing. Thank you for not doing that. :)

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Indeed -- I felt a little awkward. I'd hoped someone was gonna come out and introduce us and explain what the bald, bespectacled Jew was doing on stage with The Coolest Man Alive. But, no. Which is why I had about 23 people come up to me afterward and ask, "Who are you?" Even my wife wasn't sure at that point. Still: I did get the best seat in the house for about 20 minutes. Worth it. So, so very worth it.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

The Poet was going to introduce you, but he was hanging with Tommy Chong. Next time make Liles get up there and do some work, and get some well deserved attention

 Bluto
Bluto

"Joe Ely's the Texan I wish I was writing about the Texas I wish I lived in". Damn, wish I would have thought of that first. Well said, Robert. Ely, Gilmore, and Butch Hancock are all Texas jewels that far too few Texans know about.

cp
cp

Was going to say pretty much the exact same thing.

Rpm4565
Rpm4565

Great show. Great talent. Thank God I live in Texas.

m1morley
m1morley

Amazing performance. Thanks Joe!

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

I believe most people there either laughed at the imagery of the song in the spirit it was written, or didn't know/understand the lyrics

Topham Beauclerk
Topham Beauclerk

Greatness. And maybe it says a little something about the maturing of this city that we can love this song without getting all defensive about it. We can see the truth in those lyrics.

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