Cowboy boots are not typical Washingtonian footwear, but they made an appearance at the 9:30 Club last night when the Old 97s blazed through town. The indefatigable alt-country standard-bearers are touring on their tenth studio album, Most Messed Up, and delivered an energetic performance that included old favorites like “Barrier Reef” and “Hitchhike to Rhome” and new offerings such as “Guadalajara.”
This was my fourth Old 97s concert, and the Dallas-based band is in as fine form as ever. The rollicking tunes and Rhett Miller’s wordplay, by turns sincere and sardonic, sweetly wistful and bawdy, are core elements of what we’ve come to love and expect from the band. Most Messed Up is wryly reflective, but not nostalgic — Miller and his crew contemplate middle-age and a life spent on the road, playing songs, getting drunk, and getting up the next day to do it all over again, giving it all they’ve got and hoping it’s enough.