Review: Lucero and Esmé Patterson wear their hearts on their sleeves at the Fillmore


Photos: Alessio Neri

SAN FRANCISCO — Lucero and Esmé Patterson shared emotion and an unexpected level of vulnerability at the Fillmore Saturday.

The headliner’s two-hour set was replete with its one-of-a-kind alt-country sound, ranging from old favorites to songs from 2015’s, All a Man Should Do. Lucero has been together for almost 20 years, and frontman Ben Nichols acknowledged that a few things have changed in that time. For instance, he paused midway through “My Best Girl,” a song dedicated to the only girl who’s always been by his side—his guitar—to laugh at the guy who wrote it 16 years ago.

“It sounds a little silly when I sing it now, a little ridiculous,” he laughed. “[But] I was dead serious when I wrote it!”

Another change, he noted, was the birth of his daughter, Izzy, six months ago.

“The tricky part is you gotta sing ‘em lullabies and shit. I don’t know ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider,’ I don’t remember that shit,” he said. “All I got is this solo record I recorded about this horribly violent Cormac McCarthy novel called Blood Meridian. It’s gonna fuck her up, probably.”

He went on to pour his heart into a beautiful a cappella lullaby, until one fan began heckling him. The heckler repeatedly screamed that he would rather hear something else, and ultimately, Nichols gave up halfway through. While Nichols brushed it off with a joke, it was disappointing to other fans and seemed to, understandably, briefly hurt his confidence.

Nichols is an artist who feeds off of his audience, however, and he quickly bounced back with some moral support from other fans, keyboardist Rick Steff and a swig of whiskey.

He readily accepted song requests, so the night was full of fan favorites like “Bikeriders” and “The War” off Nobody’s Darlings, “Slow Dancing” and “Nights Like These” from Tennessee, and the band’s exquisite cover of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle.”

Fans were still begging for more well after midnight, but Lucero closed out its encore with Tennessee’s “Fistful of Tears.”

Lucero and Patterson seem like an odd billing on the surface, but they delivered heartfelt performances that, when paired, felt something like comfort food for the soul.

Patterson opened the show donning a sky-blue bob wig to complement a blue kimono, and quickly enchanted an audience composed mostly of people who’d never heard of her.

The honesty of her lyrics came through loud and clear in her live performance. She claimed to be nervous, but that’s one thing that didn’t translate to the stage.

“This is incredible you guys,” she said. “I’m trying to play it cool, but I’m totally freaking out. So I’m just gonna try not to talk too much and just keep playing some songs.”

Patterson worked to create a sonic masterpiece, with her beautiful lilting vocals and the artistry with which she crafted distortion and feedback, as she intermittently crouched onstage to manipulate her guitar and pedals.

She offered up a flawless denouement to her 45-minute set with “Francine,” from her 2016 record We Were Wild. The song started out much like the rest of her set, but intensely built over several minutes. As it came to a crescendo, Patterson ripped her wig off to reveal a shaved head underneath, which emphasized the feeling that she was bearing her soul to about 500 of her closest friends. By the time she walked off the stage, audience members could be heard asking in tones of incredulous admiration, “Who the hell was that?!”

Follow reporter Julie Parker at photographer Alessio Neri at and

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