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SXSW: Nightwatchman patrols after hours with celebrity pals

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Morello_lHave you ever heard Slash, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave), Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Wayne Kramer (MC5) jam together on a revved-up version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”?  Neither had I until I slipped into the after-Midnight gig by Morello (pictured), a.k.a. the Nightwatchman, his acoustic, folky, political alter-ego. Leading up to the April 24 release of  his One Man Revolution album, Morello has been playing a bunch of freewheeling solo gigs, with famous guests and drop- in cameos. His gig at the Parish club on Thursday night in Austin was no different.

I’m still kicking myself for missing the beginning — I just had to have a slice of pizza — but word is that show opened with the whole gang taking one of Farrell’s classic Jane’s Addiction songs (not sure which one, sadly.). When I walked in, Morello had moved onto his solo tunes, which evoke Muddy Waters and Van Morrison. Rumors of a Rage-reunion at SXSW did not come true, though Morello did play his old band’s “Guerilla Radio” as Dylan-style harmonica-and-acoustic tune. From there, it became a kind of absurd game of rock ‘n’ roll musical chairs. U.K. neo-folkie Alexi Murdoch stopped in to play one of his contemplative tunes; everybody piled on stage for a sloppy run through the MC5’s riot-starting classic, “Kick Out the Jams”; and then the evening ended with a punky take on “This Land Is Your Land,” with the totally inappropriate yet completely awesome Slash solo tacked on the end.

In the middle of this chaotic mess was Morello, who, after being just-the-guitarist for so many years, is coming into his own as a frontman. He’s got a booming, espresso-rich voice, a nice way with traditional Americana, and most of all, a genial, funny, stage presence that makes a big club feel like a small living room. “Have a nice weekend,” he ended the show, “But you won’t top that s—!” He might have been right.

addCredit(“Tom Morello: Sean Ricigliano”)