When Buddy Miller took the stage last Friday at The Pageant in St. Louis and performed the solo acoustic “That’s How I Got To Memphis,” one could say that he could have kept going — just him and an acoustic guitar — and everything would be fine and dandy. But when Patty Griffin joined him on stage for the majority of his set, the evening turned. It became special.
Miller, who is a wonderful songwriter and guitar player, showed off all his talents, and Griffin’s voice sweetened his opening set. The standout was “Chalk,” off his fabulous latest album, Written in Chalk. It’s a sad song, but to hear it live, with Griffin providing harmony, is as a beautiful live moment that you’ll come across.
Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin’s voices were made for each other, and their current tour is not be missed because of this fact.
Later on, when Griffin took the stage, as the headliner, with Miller and her band, which included another fine guitar player, Doug Lancio, there was already a buzz in the air. As you probably know, live music is better because of this buzz — you can sense greatness being thrown upon you, and you live for the moment that it’s hitting you.
Luckily, Griffin was in fine form. She leaned heavily on her latest album, the gospel-influenced Downtown Church. Her set was a soul journey to the middle of the heart; it was mostly a laid back affair, but if you bought a ticket to the show and expected to be moved by something other than Griffin’s voice, then you were misled.
Griffin’s voice is such a treasure, and she sings gospel tunes like she’s an angel from a blue, cloudless sky. Whether it was “House of Gold” or “Little Fire,” Griffin was confident with every word that left her mouth. It was the first night of tour, which usually means a few hiccups here and there, but this performance was more like a group of veterans just doing what they do — their performance was charmingly flawless.
By the end of the set, after Griffin delivered a few older tunes like “Mary” and “Love Throw a Line,” she reached back and gave us a few more gems. The encores included “Top of the World,” a song made popular by the Dixie Chicks, and “Up To the Mountain,” Griffin’s tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. These selections were sandwiched in between one of the only songs she wrote for Downtown Church (and maybe the best one), “Coming Home To Me.”
“Any time you say it with heart/ Any time you’re falling apart,” Griffin sang. “Just remember, you’re coming home to me.”
This I’ll always believe: When you see Patty Griffin live, you’re always coming back home to witness something you believe in with all your heart.