Bobby Bare has successfully guided his career through 20 years of changes in country music. Bare himself has been labeled a folk, pop and now a progressive country artist. At Desperado's last night, he showed that, more than anything, his durability is built on his adaptability to trends and a kind of drunken charm that precariously borders on insincerity.
Unfortunately, the staple of his act is that brand of progressive country music full of comic angles on booze and drugs, trucks and sex, that rings as true to life as an episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard." Typical were Bare's renditions of the overwrought country hokum of Shel Silverstein's "Drunk and Crazy" and "A Credit Card Won't Get You to Heaven." Bare's five-piece band filled in with the full range of stock country-rock licks long ago laid to rest by Waylon and Willie.
When Bare did tie in to his old hits such as "500 Miles" and "Streets of Baltimore," he cut them off in perfunctory versions. To be fair, Bare got an enthusiastic response throughout the evening, and when he sang his classic tale of dispossessed southerners, "Detroit City," his slurred delivery straightened out into a moving drawl.
Still, you couldn't help but wish that Bare would have quieted his band a little more often, planted his feet and sung a song from the heart, a real country song, maybe about a guy with the pieces of his heart in the bottom of a beer bottle.