“What’s up, Brooklyn Bowl!?” hollers Margo Price to, well, to no-one. This time last year the sight of a successful musician greeting an empty room would be kind of awkward, but to see anything else in the dregs of summer 2020 is downright shocking.
Not that Price lets the hometown silence put her off, instead filling it with the grubby, gritty ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, the hardest-rocking moment of the recently released ‘That’s How Rumors Get Started’. She’s no longer the fringe-jacket wearing face of contemporary outlaw country, and Price’s third album material rockets her into Tom Petty territory with the punchy ‘Letting Me Down’ perhaps her most polished moment as a songwriter yet.
Live, her band’s heavier sound also permeates her older material, giving the rootsy ‘Tennessee Song’ a Stones-y style swagger, as an acoustic-brandishing Price faces off with her electric guitar player – at a social distance, of course – while live clips of fans enjoying the set from their sofas flash up above the venue’s bowling lanes.
But the twang of classic country music certainly hasn’t been abandoned, with a soulful cover of Bobbie Gentry’s splendidly saucy ‘He Made A Woman Out Of Me’ as well as an explosive take on the hipster-skewering ‘Cocaine Cowboys’, during which Price hops up behind a second drum kit as psychedelic solos ring out.
In lieu of a crowd, the most electric moments come when Price has someone to spar with vocally: a harmonious, backing vocal-drenched version of Neil Young’s ‘After The Gold Rush’ shimmers with elegance, while fellow Nashville singer-songwriter Adia Victoria almost blows the headliner off the stage with a bluesy guest spot on a ferocious race through Bob Dylan’s ‘Things Have Changed’.
“It feels really good to sing – even if it’s just for 10 people,” says Price graciously to the crew dotted around the venue, but this isn’t the only show Price has played this summer – she celebrated the release of her record with an appearance at country music institution the Grand Ole Opry a few months back. There she spoke out about how country music must rid itself of racism and sexism, causing some of the genre’s more conservative fans to attack her on social media.
Tonight’s parting shot is pointed too: “Wear your masks, be safe, love one another,” she urges with a final shake of her tambourine.