Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lucinda Williams at the 9:30 Club: A Review.

     Mind.  Blowing.  It was my first time at the 9:30 Club in DC; it did not disappoint.  I've seen Lucinda Williams in concert before, and this is the type of venue she prefers to play.  Standing room only, bars line the walls, and a balcony for those of us who like to lean on things.  I was lucky enough to be with a friend who had been there before and knew to get in line early, and then immediately cut left to head up the stairs.  We secured a prime location with full view, front and center of the stage.
     There was an opening act- Dylan LeBlanc.  He was from Louisiana, I think he said Shreveport, Lucinda's home state, and it gave me the feeling that that's why he was there.  A friend of a friend said "hey Lucinda, listen to this kid" and she gave him a break.  I'm sure he's good in his own right, but seriously, how awesome would it be to get to tour with Lucinda Williams?  He played a stripped down set- his best friend and him played their guitars.  It was good.  A decent precursor for the kick-ass show we were all rearing to see.
     I have no idea what time it was when she came out on stage.  Whenever the fuck she felt like, that's what time.  To me, she's the epitome of rock and roll.  She wears leather jackets and biker boots and plays her own instruments.  She keeps a binder with her songs on a music stand next to her.  Why?  Cause she has a lot of songs, and there's a lot of words, and she can do whatever the fuck she wants.
     She opened the show with "I Just Want to See You So Bad,"  and older song from her 1988 release, Lucinda Williams.  It set the tone perfectly.  From there she moved seamlessly through her catalog, going from old to new, up tempo, bringing it down, and then right back up again.  The friends I was with weren't familiar with Lucinda Williams's music, but by the end, they were full on converts.
     When you listen to her CDs, you know the music is good.  Great.  I listen to it for days; it gets inside your head and goes around and around.  But when you see her perform live, you feel the music.  I'm reminded of a saying by another favorite band Over The Rhine: "Quiet Music Should Be Played Loud."  I don't think I would ever classify her music as quiet; there are a few slow, beautiful songs that could be mistaken for quiet songs, but then you're probably not paying attention.  When you see her perform it live, you realize that fucker should be turned up as loud as you can get it.
     For example, the song Unsuffer Me from her 2007 release West.  It's slow and achy, the electric guitar moves along like a train on the tracks, it doesn't shred.  If you're at home, you'd be tempted to put the volume between two and three.  You'd be wrong, and watching it live proves why.  She pierces through you with her razor sharp voice; it fills the room and lingers there, washing over you, seeping into parts of your soul you thought for sure were dead.
     I truly love watching Lucinda Williams in concert.  And I think she really loves putting on concerts.  She loves the music, and not in a conceited away.  She has several songs that have so much breathing room and her band just attacks them.  She stands back, sometimes with her back to the audience, and just watches them play.  She dances to the music and basks in the glow of some of the greatest guitar solos and drum smashes to be produced.  I imagine before she goes on stage she just says "play the fuck out of it, guys."  And that's exactly what they do.
     She didn't do a lot of chit chat with the audience.  She started commenting about the news and how condescending Glen Beck is.  Then she sort of apologized for not having more to talk about.  Nobody minded though.  You could sing the names off the Vietnam War Memorial, Lucinda.  We'd listen.
     She has so many songs, it's impossible for her to play them all.  Though I think I remember being at a concert a few years ago where the house manager (or someone) actually snuck out on stage to tell her she needed to stop.  She told us they were kicking her out, and then played three more songs.  In the short lull between songs, while she's switching guitars, taking a drink, or apparently just shooting the shit with the band, you start calculating what song she could do next.  And no matter what she plays, it's fantastic, and you're blown away.  She could play for 3 more hours and you'd still feel like she just scratched the surface.
     She ended the set with Honey Bee, one my personal favorites off of 2008's Little Honey.  (Claiming favorites with Lucinda songs is a proverbial Sophie's Choice.  It actually means nothing when I say it, because they're all my favorite.)  She rocked the house and the crowd screamed for a few minutes.  Of course there was an encore.  Sometimes I wonder why they leave the stage, but maybe they line up shots, I'm not sure.  For the encore she brought Dylan LeBlanc back out and it was fantastic.  They did three songs, I think, maybe four, and she ran off the stage again.  People started filing out.
     But just when you thought it was over, the crowd was still rowdy enough to bring her back out.  This time, she said a few words about the world.  This is something that is tangible about Lucinda Williams and her music, but I have failed to mention it yet, or in my previous review of her new album.  She clearly stands for something.  And I mean really.  Not just good is good, bad is bad, but she has an honest to goodness point of view about the world, and it's present in every song.  If there was a revolution, she'd be a part of it, and you'd be glad to have her on your side.  I digress.  The band started playing lowly as she was speaking, and if you know music, you could recognize it.  She earnestly thanked us all for coming to the show, for digging deep in our pockets.  She's not known for doing covers, so when she does, it's best to pay attention, because it's going to be awesome.  Stop, hey, what's that sound never sounded so good.   The crowd loved it and belted along.
      She wished us peace, love, and revolution and she was gone.  The house lights came up and everyone started to file out.  There was that bittersweetness from knowing you just saw something great, but that it was over.  My only regret of the evening was that I managed to leave without a T-shirt.  I didn't even mind the walk home in the rain.  In fact, I sort of loved it. 

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