Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers celebrate 20 years at The Van Buren

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Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Roger Clyne

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform at the Van Buren in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 29, 2018. Photos: Brent Hankins

PHOENIX — Roger Clyne strode onto The Van Buren stage amid a thunderous ovation from the local crowd at the packed venue. Fans had braved the biting wind to join the Arizona legend for a year-end extravaganza celebrating the 20th anniversary of his band, The Peacemakers. Some diehard followers made the trek to his hometown shows from the East Coast.

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Roger Clyne

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform at the Van Buren in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 29, 2018.

At his Saturday show, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers effectively opened for themselves. Following an acoustic set and a performance by another band, Clyne returned for a more raucous affair. Clyne broke into a grin as he surveyed the room and strummed the first few chords of “Arizona Night,” the opening salvo in an hour-long acoustic set of rarities.

The rest of the Peacemakers—bassist Nick Scropos, drummer P.H. Naffah and lead guitarist Jim Dalton (clad in his signature cowboy hat)—joined Clyne to dust off several classics from the band’s extensive catalog. Between numbers that included early cuts like  “City Girls” and “Sleep Like a Baby,” as well as more recent songs like “Once I Was a Thief,” Roger Clyne joked about no longer being able to remember some of his lyrics.

He offered amusing and insightful anecdotes about the group’s two decades together on the road. A few choice selections from Clyne and Naffah’s previous band, The Refreshments, also made their way into the set, including “Dolly” and “European Swallow.”

Wrapping up the acoustic set, The Peacemakers disappeared to make room for Orkesta Mendoza. Billed as one of Clyne’s personal favorite bands, the “indie mambo” aficionados wasted no time putting fans in a dancing mood, with the bulk of their songs sung in Spanish. With a dizzying array of instruments ranging from accordions to electric violins, maracas and more—and no doubt aided by the copious amounts of beer and tequila being consumed—the Tucson natives ensured nearly every set of hips in the building was swaying to the beat.

Orkesta Mendoza

Orkesta Mendoza performs at the Van Buren in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 29, 2018.

When Clyne returned to the stage and launched into “Blue Collar Suicide,” another track from the first album by The Refreshments, fans were more than ready for the main event. Following up with Peacemakers selections “All Over the Radio” and “Hello Tiger,” Clyne and the band  swung the pendulum back to The Refreshments for “Down Together.” It was clear that Clyne was playing to both longtime fans and recent converts. Most of the 19-song set was comprised of older material, although the three-song encore featured a pair of tracks from the 2017’s Native Heart.

After an energetic and exhausting performance, Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers will rest up before heading south of the border next month for the annual January Jam weekend in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

— By Brent Hankins