Lucinda Williams at the Dakota Jazz Club, 2/4/13
Photo by Steve Cohen
with the Kenneth Brian Band and Ben Kyle
Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
Monday, February 4, 2013
"By the end of these five nights, y'all are going to know more about my private life than anything," announced Lucinda Williams last night, after explaining some of the backstory behind her third song, "Metal Firecracker."
"This was inspired by a little road romance back in 1992," said Williams comfortably, with a speaking voice that doesn't particularly promise great singing. "The guy was playing in the band... He said, 'Let's not move too fast, let's get off this metal firecracker.' Of course, once we got off [the bus], things kind of fizzled out. Isn't that always how it works?"
Indeed, Williams had no short supply of history as she ran through her 90-minute-plus set, taking time with every song to discuss where it came from. Aided on stage with nothing but her own guitar and her faithful, highly talented guitarist, Doug Pettibone -- as well as an inches-thick binder of material -- Williams spoke to the audience as if she knew each member quite well. Perhaps it was that Monday night was her third night in the course of her five-night run at the Dakota and Williams was comfortable there, but whatever the case, the crowd seemed to benefit from her tales.
"Doug said, 'Will this work without a full band?'" recounted Williams of her first plans for these stripped-down shows at the Dakota. "I said, 'Honey, it'll just go back to how it started.' These are very simple songs... if you can't do a song without a full band, then it's probably not a very good song."
Photo by Steve Cohen
The songs may have started with just words on a paper and a few lines from Williams' guitar, but it's doubtful that anyone would call her songwriting simple. The star -- whose music no one is still quite sure what to call, blues or rock or country or some fantastic amalgamation of all those categories -- proved herself long ago to be quite capable of capturing complex human emotions in verses. Her talents were on full display for the Monday night crowd.
Williams started the night off with a tentative "Passionate Kisses," her voice sounding a little unsure -- though, of course, a voice like Lucinda's is about character rather than beauty. By the time she came to her second song, "Happy Woman Blues," it seemed whatever uneasiness had been washed from her throat, and her set only grew stronger with each song. "Blue" was given a touching, heartbreaking treatment, while "Reason to Cry" saw Williams hitting her stride, with help on the fiddle from opening supporter Lillie Mae Rische and Pettibone striking chords like they were a wake-up call. From there, it was a perfect blend of classic Williams tunes, a couple newer songs, and a few covers. If Williams' voice needed a song to warm up, no matter -- by the end of evening, she was inescapably in charge.
Photos by Steve Cohen
Her encore closer, "Get Right With God," was a modern rock gospel the way only Lucinda Williams could manage it. "Now we're gonna take you to the Hallelujah-Get-Right-With-God Church," rasped Williams.
Williams has the kind of voice that sounds like something you'd uncover at the bottom of a tumbler--rough and unapologetic, hardened with truth. There couldn't have been a more fitting song for her to end the night with -- Williams' songs might be enough absolution themselves.
Critic's bias: I had rather high expectations, Lucinda Williams being who she is and all, and thankfully, she didn't disappoint.
The crowd: Not really very young, but sold-out and everyone very much a fan of Williams'.
Overheard in the crowd: "She's funny!" remarked someone after one of Williams' early quips.
Random notebook dump: Williams had two openers: a simple set from local favorite Ben Kyle, and a nice performance from the Kenneth Brian Band, an Alabama-based duo that fared well with acoustic country -- though they might have been better suited to the Turf Club rather than the Dakota.
Happy Woman Blues
Carwheels on a Gravel Road
Something About What Happens When We Talk
Wake Up Call
Well Well Well
Those Three Days
Come To Me Baby (Howlin' Wolf)
Change The Locks
Goodbye Joe (Hank Williams)
Get Right With God
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