Saying T Bone Burnett has been on hiatus for the past 15 years might seem a bit disingenuous, given the success he’s had with projects like the multiplatinum soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou.” But until his Sony set “The True False Identity” hit stores last month, the singer-songwriter hadn’t been heard from as a solo artist for that daunting length of time.
Given the edgy tenor of that disc — a gripping, almost eschatological set of musings on post-millennial life — the tall, rangy Texan clearly used most of that time to stockpile philosophical warheads. At this perf, Burnett fired them off one by one, but instead of fire-and-brimstone passion, he imbued songs like “Hollywood Mecca of the Movies” and “Zombieland” with a teeth-clenching tension that consumed more than it inflamed.
That approach was boosted by the band Burnett assembled for this tour, especially guitarist Marc Ribot, who laced the songs with dark, lurching effects that matched the surreal sorties of the singer’s lyrics. Drummer Jim Keltner furthered that mood by sticking to a deep, kick-drum given groove that flowed like lava, inexorably sweeping up everything in its path.
Burnett behaved a lot like a guy who’s used to navigating his musical mazes in private, spending part of the set seated and hunched over his guitar and relying on a battered notebook — as opposed to the teleprompters preferred by more high-tech scatterbrains — to goose his memory on more lyric-intensive songs.
Even during those introverted moments, however, Burnett was anything but timid. His rigid presence in the eye of the sonic storm only served to play up the ferocity of the tempest blowing around him.
Wallflowers frontman Jakob Dylan, who joined Burnett and band for a piercing version of “Invisible City,” opened the evening with a short solo set that underscored the dexterousness of his songwriting while paring away much of the portent that sometimes creeps into his performance style when a full band is present.