The effects of multiple sclerosis are such that
Ronnie Lane must be wheeled on stage by his wife, Susan, and lifted into his
chair front and center.
But the disease that has ravaged Lane's body
hasn't debilitated his spirit, which continues to shine brightly as evidenced
by a fine performance Saturday night at the Continental Club.
With an expert band behind him that includes
ex-Grains of Faith, current Poi Dog Pondering violinist Susan Voelz,
accordion/guitarist Randy Banks, guitarist Rich Brotherton (who occasionally
chimes in with mandolin), bassist Ronnie Johnson and drummer Darin Hess, Lane
continues to have some of Austin's finest musicians backing him.
On this night, he again opened and closed the
set with what has become his anthem, the Faces' wry Ooh La La. The song's
heartbreaking line ("I wish that I knew what I know now/ When I was
stronger") continues to resonate through Lane's work, but rather than
shrink from its obvious irony, he has embraced it, with an enthusiasm and
unblinking sincerity that runs through all of his singing.
While Lane is physically frail, his voice is
still strong. He dueled nicely with Banks' accordion on Rio Grande and gave a
powerful reading of Nowhere to Run.
And, on this night, the crowd was fully
appreciative. Through Barcelona and There Ain't No Winnin' With Women, as Lane
got visibly weaker, the audience's support grew stronger. By the time he hit
the penultimate April Skies, many were standing in applause at the end of the
After the set - which ended with rousing
applause - Lane was about to be lifted off the stage when another round of
cheering went up for a final song. The band played a new one - Sally Ann -
which might match Ooh La La in tragic irony ("By and by... nothing is
sweeter than to die").
It was nice to see Ronnie Lane - an underrated
musician even when he was with the Faces - being treated with such reverance
by a full house (the last time I'd seen him was at a Quake, Rattle and Roll
benefit with about 12 people at Liberty Lunch).
Austin is blessed to have him; for the rest of
the rock world, the proper appreciation probably won't come for a few more
years, until the Faces are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Once Ronnie gets his due, Ooh La La will sound
even sweeter. But Austinites needn't wait 'til then; the Ronnie Lane Band is a
treat right now.- Michael MacCambridge