Package tours are a matter of course for big summer venues but you won’t find many expanded to a triple bill as musically compatible — if weirdly titled — as the LSD tour that kicked off Tuesday at the waterfront Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.
There was nothing psychedelic about the alt-country/Americana bill derived from the first-name initials of Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam — apart from heady color wheels on the back screen and low Max Max-ish lighting sculptures.
The roots-rock veterans each delivered a career-spanning hour-long set, Earle setting the tone with his five-piece Dukes mixing electric backbone and country flavor spiced with fiddle and pedal steel. The bandana-clad Earle began with songs from his aptly titled new So You Want to Be an Outlaw, later switching to acoustic guitar (for “I’m Still in Love With You,” a ballad from a 1999 album with bluegrass great Del McCoury that fiddler Eleanor Whitmore turned into a winsome duet) and mandolin before closing with a salty take on the hard blues “Hey Joe.” On the 30th anniversary of breakthrough Copperhead Road, Earle also took the title track at a subdued pace but sharply cautioned against guns on a timely “The Devil’s Right Hand.”
Fronting a muscular quartet, Williams literally brought the fireworks, though she was slow to acknowledge an incidental display of impressive explosions over the harbor that was easily seen from inside the tent through a third of her set and perfectly culminated to a snarling “Honey Bee.” With her rough but right voice (and like-mussed hair), Williams avoided obvious hits from 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road yet charmed with “Lake Charles,” rocked the Tom Petty-recorded “Changed the Locks,” and built “Foolishness” into a dismissal of racism, sexism, hate and walls that drew the audience to its feet as she cried, “Peace and love, don’t give up the fight.”
In contrast, Yoakam’s closing set came off a bit shiny (with band members in sparkly jackets) in a loud, burnished blur of songs that were nonetheless finely tuned and richly steeped in their own roots, a blend of rock – with early shots of Chuck Berry (“Little Queenie”) and Elvis Presley (“Little Sister”), Tex-Mex and honky tonk, including a fine take on Buck Owens’ “Streets of Bakersfield.” He also premiered his sweetly strummed new “Pretty Horses.” But under his trademark ten-gallon hat, Yoakam also came across as a pure entertainer more than his tour mates, even stomping his boots and doing a knee-knocking sidestep dance to his slick hillbilly hit “Guitars, Cadillacs.”
The only real disappointment was that LSD trio never convened to collaborate after three-plus hours of music – with a little room to go before curfew. Perhaps that will happen as the tour settles in, but it was Boston’s loss on an otherwise beautiful, breezy night.
Tuesday’s show was fairly well-attended with a little help from late ticket deals to help fill out the venue, yet the front center section was scattered with unfilled seats, a likely distraction to the performers, especially the early-playing Earle. But some of the summer’s 50-plus shows at the harbor-side Pavilion (which added a facelift in new concession stands designed like shipping containers) are bound to draw less, particularly given the unparalleled strength of this season’s busy schedule. For every hot attraction like Beck or especially Van Morrison, there’s a worthy bill like the Spoon and Grizzly Bear package that shows plenty of tickets remain for next Monday.