Three time Grammy Award singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams dazzled Chicago fans over the course of three nights at the Park West in Lincoln Park. Each concert celebrated Williams’ 30-year musical career, highlighting a specific period of work each night. The first night covered 1979 to 1989, the second 1992 to 2001, and the third installment relayed 2003 to the present.
I was fortunate to catch the final night of the Chicago performances. The Park West was the perfect place to hear and see Williams play as the venue offered a comfortable and intimate setting. Williams’ bold twang and full-body vocals filled the space with a warm glow. This heart and soul was backed by the four piece Buick 6, an L.A. band that formed a firm background for the songstress via a wall of guitars (including pedal steel), upright and electric bass, drums and percussion. Their command added harmony, embellished melodies, and added an overall engaging sonic dialogue with Williams’ music.
During the first set Williams played selections off of World Without Tears, West and Little Honey. The second set was dedicated to an assortment of songs spanning the musician’s impressive career. The original repertoire demonstrated everything from country blues, twang, roots and Americana to acoustic folk, power rock and ballads. Williams’ vocals encompassed a tough, powerful drone, a force one would not want to mess with. Her words were honest, but full of edge and attitude. Much to my surprise Williams’ addressed the crowd in a shy and soft spoken manner, quite the opposite of her assertive singing.
As the evening rolled on Williams became increasingly chatty; she began to offer stories of her musical journey which lent context to her songs. She summed up West as her “long, suffering album,” and Little Honey as “the happy album, sort of like West volume two.” Both albums incorporated themes of love, catastrophe, life’s ups, downs, turns, changes, and everything in between.
Her tangents lead to stories of her rocky beginnings in the music industry, and how she lost the creative control of several of her earlier songs. The best tale was how, unbeknownst to Williams, her tune “One Night Stand” was used in a porno (specifically “All American Girls in Heat: Part Two.”) Williams said that her and her associates have looked long and hard for the film in question, but have yet to find it.
Both sets were lengthy, over 90-minutes each, and there was nothing artificial, forced or orchestrated about the show. Williams and Buick 6 kept a tight groove filled with edge, attitude and emotion. By the end of the second set the audience’s energy was built up and hungry for more. Satiating them, just briefly, the band played a short encore including an original ballad and a cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘ n’ Roll.)” During the peak of “Long Way” both the band and audience were pushed over the edge, bringing out the rock star in everyone. Williams’ three night run ended with an overwhelming ovation from her admirers. She left the scene with the parting words: “Love, peace and revolution!”
13 October, 2009, Set 1
13 October, 2009, Set 2
14 October, 2009, Set 1
14 October, 2009, Set 2
15 October, 2009, Set 1
15 October, 2009, Set 2
// Short Ends and Leader
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