Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Concert Review | Lucinda Williams at The Pageant in Saint Louis

Photo by Chris Lay

Let's start with the obvious: Lucinda Williams is one of the best songwriters of her generation. Yeah, I know. That's easy. It's as obvious as choosing her best album: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Like many of you out there, Car Wheels was my first introduction to Williams' music, and I immediately fell in love with songs like "I Lost It," "Metal Firecracker," "Lake Charles," and the tune she opened with at The Pageant, "Can't Let Go."

When Williams opens a show with one of her best songs, it all makes sense. She has so many great ones to choose from that you don't worry if the show can get any better. Nope. You know it's just the beginning of something that won't go downhill; Williams' songs climb a mountain filled with ex-lovers and friends who have passed along the way. No one has ever reached the top.

And maybe that's the best thing about seeing Williams in her current state. Her latest album, Blessed, is her best effort in four years, and it features "Copenhagen," a tune about her late manager, Frank Callari. "You have disappeared, you have been released," Williams sang as she performed the somber song. It came during the middle of her set where things were slowed down a bit, right after Car Wheels' "Jackson," a new song, "Stowaway," which was performed for the first time, and West's "Where is my Love."

Williams wouldn't keep things toned down for long, however. She started to amp things up after a near-perfect take on Bob Dylan's "Tryin' To Get To Heaven," reconstructing World Without Tears' "Steal Your Love" with a funky and building beat. This led into a six-song barrage of electricity, starting with Blessed's opening track, "Buttercup," a song from the title that sounds like it would be sweet, but it's actually another Williams tune about getting back at a lost lover. "You look like a little kid with bruises on your knees," Williams sang.

The main set ended with Williams getting political with her words before "Joy." While I thought she was rather funny, she did go on for quite some time about Herman Cain and a few others, and it seemed like a bit much. But then again, she explained that she was on her bus all day watching MSNBC, so perhaps an outlet was needed.

Whatever the case, her lengthy outburst didn't ruin the extended jam on "Joy," and the song that followed, "Honey Bee," a real live kicker that finds Williams singing from her gut: "Oh my little honey bee, I'm so glad you stung me." It was the most fun Williams had all night, save for maybe the final song of the encore, a cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."

Now that's when it's okay to get a little political, Lucinda. Hit us with a classic we all know, from a time when democracy was still defended in a song. That's a gravel road we'll follow down with you every time.

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