The LSD Tour — a package show that draws its arch title from the first-name initials of Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Dwight Yoakam — debuted in Boston Tuesday with an almost four-hour trip (there’s your obligatory acid reference) of fine country, and countryish, music. Two of its principals, Yoakam and Earle, came to light as part of the so-called “new traditionalist” movement in 1980s country music (a label that Yoakam has suggested was as much a way for journalists to indicate that the sounds were different from then-contemporary country as a “movement” per se). Around the same time, Lucinda Williams’s self-titled breakthrough came along. Some 30 years later, each of the three has become a towering presence in alternative country or Americana music. Tuesday evening, each played separate, hourlong sets that in various ways reflected their early days.
Along with the current crack version of his band the Dukes, Earle played a set heavy on selections from his latest release, “So You Wannabe an Outlaw.” That record represents a return of sorts to the version of country music that Earle was making at the start of his career, and live, with the marvelous honky-tonk swing of “Walking in L.A.” and the outlaw crank of “So You Wannabe,” that element shone through. Earle abetted those new songs with songs they recalled — “Guitar Town” and “Someday” — from his long-ago debut. But he moved from country to psychedelic territory to finish, morphing another song from his new record, “Fixin’ to Die,” into a smoking take on “Hey Joe.”
Williams came taut and lean, thanks in no small part to the work of her backing three-piece Buick 6 and in particular the blazing, muscular guitar playing of Stuart Mathis. Her set included some of her finest accomplishments, “Lake Charles,” the grief-numbed “Pineola,” and the Blaze Foley homage “Drunken Angel” among them; she sent another, “Changed the Locks,” out to Tom Petty. The highlight of her performance — and, perhaps, of the evening — arrived with a power-chord-slammed version of “Honey Bee.”
Yoakam tore through an hour of his music with little respite between songs to end the evening. Save for playing two new singles, his focus was solidly retrospective, on the electric hillbilly music of his early records: “Guitars, Cadillacs,” “Please, Please Baby,” “Streets of Bakersfield,” and several more. As usual, he included a couple of nods to heroes and influences with some Merle (“The Bottle Let Me Down”) and a torrid version of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie.” And he ended with his high-test take on “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” a choice that, in taking a classic country song and making it his own, encapsulated what he has done so well from the beginning of his career.
Newcomers King Leg set the table with a bracing opening set of Orbison-esque country-rock that saw them stuff six songs into their allotted 20 minutes. That was enough to suggest that this is a band to keep an eye on.
With Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, and King Leg. At Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, TuesdayStuart Munro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.