Alejandro Escovedo / The Beauties Mod Club, Toronto ON July 7

Alejandro Escovedo / The Beauties Mod Club, Toronto ON July 7
Photo: Eric Thom
Fans think of a live Alejandro Escovedo show as a communion of sorts — a chance to take sustenance from his ever-radiant, always-energetic performances like a salve to the stresses of a cruel world. A near-fatal bout with Hep C almost silenced this most-focused of troubadours in 2003 but his subsequent — and complete — recovery has seen him re-emerge from the chrysalis, re-energised and — as he was Monday night — on fire.

Charging the Mod Club stage like the namesake of his newest album, Real Animal, Escovedo ditched his Cale-inspired chamber sounds (Voelz on violin and Standefer on cello) in favour of a tough, muscular four-piece, including David Pulkingham’s incendiary guitar, Josh Gravelin on bass and rock-steady drummer, Hector Munoz. The guitar tag team of Pulkingham and Escovedo proved near feral as their fresh, Visconti-produced material got a sound walkabout. And, although new songs like "Chelsea Hotel” and the beautiful "Sister Lost Soul” (dedicated to rock’s casualties) proved worthy additions to his canon, strong openers like "Put You Down,” the crowd-satiating "Velvet Guitar” and the recently-refreshed "Castanets” pumped the audience into overdrive. Pulkingham’s accomplished strengths on Spanish guitar helped transform "I Was Drunk” into a punk mariachi hoedown, while flashbacks to By The Hand of the Father’s "Wave” and the bittersweet "Rosalie” clearly hit a nerve with its creator.

Escovedo’s first encore included a full-tilted "Beast of Burden,” injecting newfound testosterone into anything Jagger could muster, while their screaming banshee cover of Mott/Bowie’s "All The Young Dudes” ripped the roof off as it underlined Escovedo’s intimate connection to an entire generation of music. Encore two (featuring local Toronto saxman Paul Wright) began with a Coltrane-inspired intro to the ultimate Escovedo workout, "I Wanna Be Your Dog,” bringing the perfect evening to a sweaty close. Manna from heaven would hardly be an understatement.

Local openers the Beauties proved a revelation, taking full advantage of the packed house to parade their high-torque blend of rockabilly-basted country.