You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Joe Ely celebrates 70 years with a blissful blowout at the Paramount

It’s hard to imagine a more well-deserved 70th birthday party than the one Joe Ely had on Feb. 10 at the Paramount Theatre — surrounded onstage by lifelong friends, playing songs from the full stretch of his career to an adoring audience that packed the house.

So when a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” spontaneously rose from the crowd as Ely and his band got set for an encore after a couple of transcendent hours, it was no surprise that everyone joined in with boisterous joy. Ely, who turned 70 on Feb. 9, thanked the crowd warmly, and answered with a perfect promise: “Live Forever,” the Billy Joe Shaver classic that he recorded on his 2011 album “Satisfied at Last.”

The key to Ely’s continued relevance, as he enters his eighth decade, is that he’s never settled for being satisfied, despite that brilliant late-career album’s title. Even in 2015, on the eve of his yearlong tenure as Texas State Musician, his “Panhandle Rambler” album testified that Ely, who moved to Austin from Lubbock in the 1970s, is still chasing that creative spark and coming up diamonds.

This show’s set list was a perfectly constructed wonder unto itself, touching on most of Ely’s dozen-plus solo albums as well as the records he’s made with his Flatlanders pals Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. After opening the show with the very first song on his very first solo record — “I Had My Hopes Up High” from 1977’s self-titled album — Ely played two more early career tunes before inviting Hancock and Gilmore out for a splendid five-song stretch that highlighted the hourlong first set.

The surprise, perhaps, was that while they closed with Gilmore’s “Dallas” (from the band’s legendary 1972 debut, revisited by Ely on his 1981 album “Musta Notta Gotta Lotta”), the other songs all came from the reunion records they did together in the 2000s. It’s a testament to the trio’s songwriting longevity that all four were great choices — especially “Borderless Love” from 2009’s “Hills and Valleys,” which drew thunderous applause for its timely chorus summation: “In a borderless love, there’s no need for a wall.”

The second set’s linchpin was that it surveyed all five decades of Ely’s recording career. Fitting, then, that the band surrounding him onstage also represented every phase along that road. Pedal steel ace Lloyd Maines stretched back to that groundbreaking 1970s Lubbock era, while a core band of guitarists David Grissom and David Holt, bassist Jimmy Pettit and drummer Davis McLarty represented Ely’s late-’80s/early-’90s roadhouse-rockin’ heyday. Accordionist Joel Guzman became a fixture in Ely’s orbit in the 2000s, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Plankenhorn has taken on a key role over the past few years.

All of them were onstage together for many songs, with the occasional addition of ringer acoustic bassist Glenn Fukunaga and Flatlanders drummer Pat Manske. If you kept an eye on the band throughout the night, a great pleasure was just seeing the delight on their faces at being able to share this moment with Ely: Plankenhorn grinning widely as he played dobro on the Flatlanders’ “Dallas”; Ely and Maines sharing a whisper and a laugh as Holt kicked into a solo on “Cool Rockin’ Loretta”; Maines with a beatific smile toward Grissom during “Me and Billy the Kid.” Everyone up there was loving this.

The second set’s high point was the title track to 2003’s “Streets of Sin,” a slow-burn anthem that Ely stretched out so Grissom, Holt and Guzman could lay down beautiful instrumental brushstrokes. Grissom’s solo in particular was a show-stopper, tinged with a touch of sadness only for the reminder that the late Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, Ely’s longtime sidekick from the early days, couldn’t be here to join in the celebration.

By the time the encore rolled around, it seemed obvious that the Flatlanders’ fellow Lubbock accomplice, Terry Allen, had to be lurking in the wings. Sure enough, after the sterling rendition of “Live Forever,” Ely introduced the artist who had his own grand moment on the Paramount stage just a few weeks ago.

It might have been a setup for Ely’s livewire take on Allen’s “Gimme a Ride to Heaven,” but instead, they smartly just turned toward the classics, raising the roof with a medley of “Not Fade Away,” “Who Do You Love” and “Hey Bo Diddley.” When that wasn’t enough to send folks home, they came back out, this time with Hancock and Gilmore too, for a Woody Guthrie benediction of “This Land Is Your Land.” Even the Super Bowl couldn’t top that.

Set list:

1. I Had My Hopes Up High

2. She Never Spoke Spanish To Me

3. Honky Tonk Masquerade

4. Waving My Heart Goodbye (Flatlanders)

5. Thank God for the Road (Flatlanders)

6. Right Where I Belong (Flatlanders)

7. Borderless Love (Flatlanders)

8. Dallas (Flatlanders)

9. Magdalene

10. The Highway Is My Home

11. Cornbread Moon


12. All Just to Get to You

13. Up on the Ridge

14. You Can Bet I’m Gone

15. Cold Black Hammer

16. Dry Land Farm

17. Boxcars

18. Streets of Sin

19, Me and Billy the Kid

20. Cool Rockin’ Loretta

First encore

21. Live Forever

22. Not Fade Away/Who Do You Love/Hey Bo Diddley medley

Second encore

23. This Land Is Your Land

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Music

Our messed-up relationship with food  started with butter.
Our messed-up relationship with food started with butter.

Have you ever eaten butter by the spoon? Butter without toast to prop it up or eggs to fry in it - butter for its own tangy, full-flavored, exquisite sake? Elaine Khosrova does this, not infrequently. She warms a variety of types to room temperature, gets a glass of water to clear her palate between rounds and pries delicately at her subjects with...
Attention, America: Dorie Greenspan's bringing back the quiche
Attention, America: Dorie Greenspan's bringing back the quiche

Being a part-time Parisian allows me a full-time love affair with quiche. The savory tart is everywhere. My favorite cafes have a quiche on the menu; the flavor changes daily, but it's always served with the same little green salad (and a not very good dressing, which must come from cafe-central; it's inescapable). Gérard Mulot, the patissier...
Comedian Gabriel Iglesias in life-threatening battle with his weight

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias has always been on the heavy side–in fact that’s what he’s known for. His punchline is a dig at his own weight problem, “I’m not fat…I’m fluffy.” But now the comedian’s obesity has caught up with him.  A few weeks ago, he announced on Instagram that he was canceling...
Frank taking over food and beverage operations at Scholz Garten, will add German menu items
Frank taking over food and beverage operations at Scholz Garten, will add German menu items

Changes are coming to histroic Scholz Garten. In a move that will bring two German traditions together at a Central Texas classic, artisan sausage purveyors Frank will take over food and beverage operations at the legendary Scholz Garten beginning June 1.
Can a pho that was taken over by soggy noodles be saved?

Food writer Emily Horton joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions from readers. Here are edited excerpts from that chat. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at washingtonpost. com/recipes. Q: I made pho for dinner with a friend and learned some lessons in my attempt to take a shortcut when I was running...
More Stories