Live Last Night: Lucinda Williams
On "Come On," a primal howl of a parting shot, alt-country dowager Lucinda Williams dresses down a soon-to-be-ex-lover who never even made her -- well, the fellow was simply unsatisfactory, poor old sport.
So often in these matters, the culprit is timing. And based on how she sequenced her intermittently sublime 22-song cry-in at the 9:30 club last night, Williams's sense of timing is unconventional.
Who opens a gig at an all-standing club with nearly an hour of slow, sad ballads? Answer: Well, duh.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
Williams, the grand dame of Southern Gothic songstresses, can't even write a tune about a beautiful little city by the sea ("Ventura") without making you worry she's going to wander off into it: "I want to be swallowed up by an ocean of love."
Nobody expects her to cover AC/DC or anything, but a bit more variation in the tempo of her haunting, individually gorgeous odes to miserableness might have pushed the show's needle from "quite good" to "one for the books."
Williams cheered up on last year's "Little Honey" album, but it couldn't last. Fortunately, nobody does dejected grandeur like she does. Disappointment and resignation are the emotional states her haggard, road-weary voice was made to travel.
She's a tentative-at-best stage presence, glancing down at a lyric book every few seconds and thanking the crowd through gritted teeth after each number. But no matter: Her amber pipes were in perfectly imperfect form last night, and the somber tone of the set's first half made her instrument's resilience stand out even more.
It also let her band, the four-piece Buick 6, show its chops. They'd opened the show with a hot instrumental set of Zeppelin and Prince and surf-guitar standards before changing into better clothes to play with the headliner.
By the time Williams began gradually to up the pace with "Tears of Joy" (yep, even her upbeat songs require hankies), she looked relieved. Well, actually she looked like Ron Wood, with her black dye-job and eyeliner and studded belt and skull-and-crossbones pendant. But her late-blooming cheerfulness sure was catching, and the hard-charging sequence of "Honey Bee," "Joy" and "Righteously" to close the set proper came on like sunshine piercing the gloom.
Encores? She's got your encores: A solo-acoustic reimagining of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" and the best of Williams' new songs, "Little Rock Star" ("this is not all that it's cracked up to be"), together conjured up the most breathtaking eight minutes of the night.
You couldn't help but wonder if throwing the set list into a blender might have made the whole show that riveting, but the fact that she rewrites it nightly is a noble gamble with a variable return. And anyway, it's her party, and she can make us all cry if she wants to. Or make us all cry, cheer us back up, make us cry again, and then stick a fork in the gig with an AC/DC cover. 'Cause she did that, too. "It's a Long Way to the Top," and no knowing how long you'll stay, so nothing to do while you're there but whatever you want.
-- CHRIS KLIMEK
Williams performs again at the 9:30 club this evening; tickets are still available.
By J. Freedom du Lac |
March 4, 2009; 1:24 PM ET
Live Last Night
Previous: The Morning Mix: Britney's Back; Mastering the Beatles; the Death of Music Retail | Next: Six Questions For ... Tindersticks
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: freshprince04 | March 4, 2009 3:44 PM
Posted by: sjordan1 | March 4, 2009 5:55 PM
Posted by: Stevedoro | March 5, 2009 9:27 AM
Posted by: NickPayne | March 9, 2009 9:28 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.