Where X usually packed the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, that band’s guiding light, John Doe, drew a far-from-capacity crowd to his Wednesday show, where he debuted new songs and a new band. It’s a shame, because the 25-song set was brimming with the musical adventure and honesty that marked X’s finest moments.
Chief among the show’s surprises was that Doe has become a full-fledged troubadour, more than able to carry a show on his own. Where once his attempts at Phil Ochs-styled balladry or grainy country standards required a certain amount of bemused indulgence from his listeners, Doe has grown remarkably since X’s indefinite split commenced last year.
In place of the earnest but amateurish vocals that marked his roots efforts with X and its acoustic offshoot the Knitters, Doe’s singing Wednesday was a revelation. Sacrificing none of its directness, his voice displayed an impressive passion, range and power--even effectively belting out an Elvis tribute on Dave Bartholomew’s “One Night of Sin,” the seamy archetype for the King’s “One Night With You.”
Performing both solo and backed by a nimble roots-hopping trio composed of Blasters drummer Bill Bateman, k.d. Lang’s guitarist Greg Leisz and Cruzados bassist Tony Marsico, Doe freely blended folk, country and rock with some incendiary results.