STEVE EARLE, The Alhambra, 8th September.

Steve Earle, hardcore troubadour, a very welcome visitor at the Alhambra on his short acoustic tour, wanted some vocal back-up from the audience.

"You'll have to sing louder than that or they'll think you're English!" he told the Dunfermline crowd as they joined in the chorus of his opening number 'Christmas in Washington'.

That was quickly followed by the ever-popular 'Copperhead Road' and 'Devil's Right Hand' to get the gig off to a flying start and he went on to deliver a captivating performance.

He had been in Ireland a few days before and was happy to relate he had received a much friendlier welcome than Tony Blair did over there.

His personal life may be much more settled than in his 'ghetto' period which culminated in a jail sentence but Earle, the street-fighting song-smith is still out there slugging and backing the underdog.

He condemned the war in Iraq, apologised for Britain being dragged into a conflict of his country's making and said he realised there would be victims from this area.

That was the introduction to 'Rich Man's War' which features the line, "Rolling into Baghdad wonderin how he got this far, just another poor boy off to fight a rich man's war." However, while never ducking the hard issues, neither did he harp on or preach and the mood was relaxed and good-natured rather than heavy and serious.

Stand out tracks included 'My Old Friend the Blues', 'Outlaw's Honeymoon', 'City of Immigrants' and 'Galway Girl'.

Earle's own compositions have him a serial award-winner but his last album featured the songs of his late friend Townes Van Zandt.

'Townes' won him another Grammy and 'Pancho and Lefty', which was a highlight of the Alhambra concert.

Another was 'This City', a tribute to the people of New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and featured on 'Treme' a documentary on the disaster.

Earle warned other countries should beware dark industrial practices being important from America by big business. His song 'The Mountain' is about the practice of strip mining in Appalachia by ripping the top off peaks to get at minerals as cheaply as possible and causing damage to the environment.