Keith's got some new pics from recent shows up.
Amy Ray at Headliners
I was underwhelmed with the opener, but Amy Ray and the Volunteers rocked the house with a set the showcased tunes from her new CD, Prom, with a handful of stuff from its predecessor, Stag, sprinkled in. (Like Johnny Rottentail!)
The crowd was smaller than we thought it would be. For the Stag tour, Headliners was so packed you could not move an inch without bumping into someone, no matter how hard you tried. Anticipating this, we got there early, stood in line, and made straight for the balcony, since the floor seats were bound to be obscured by people standing. As it turned out, all the precautions weren’t necessary. It was a good-sized crowd, but not overwhelming or obtrusive. Keith and I were part of only a handful of folks in the balcony. We sat on an ottoman in a corner, right up on the rail, in direct sight of stage left, which gave us a nice, cozy box seat, with an excellent view of the show.
For my money, Prom is the best CD of 2005. There’s just nothing that tops this personal collection of tunes that reflect about growing up gay in the rural south in the 70’s, and touch on gay issues and gay life in the 21st century. I’m planning to review the CD soon, so I won’t go into detail, but I had high hopes for this show.
Which did not go unmet. Ray was obviously charged by her band, and the whole set rumbled with energy. I wish she had spent some time talking about the songs and where they came from, but the music stands so powerfully on its own, that this is a minor quibble, rather than a complaint.
Nanci Griffith in Lexington
Griffith was a little annoyed by some minor sound problems that plagued the set, but for the most part she kept that hidden from the audience. In fact, except for a feedback squeal during Gulf Coast Highway, the problems were mostly not noticeable. Nevertheless, throughout the show, she was kind and gracious to the audience, sharing jokes and stories and chatting freely.
The set had a lot of songs from her newest CD, Hearts in Mind, so several older favorites weren’t included. I was a little disappointed not to hear Mary Margaret, but she managed to build some surprises in the set, with songs like Late Night Grande Hotel. She also managed to strike a careful balance between making a political statement or two, and turning the show into a manifesto. I’m one of the sort that would not have objected to the manifesto, but I was impressed with they way she inserted a line into Flyer about bringing the troops home tonight, and a few minutes later, laughingly referred to herself as a “left-winged creature.” A performer can be political and entertaining at the same time, and Griffith certainly proved it.
She also channeled some of her social concern into an area everyone in the audience could agree with at this point in time, hurricane relief efforts. She shared her sadness at the destruction to the gulf, including the Gulf Coast Highway, then shared her hope that after the rebuilding she’ll be able to go and see the blue bonnets in bloom again. It’s been just amazing to me how many musicians I like are from or have lived or have sung about the affected areas: Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Kate Campbell, and now Nanci Griffith.
When it was obvious that she was starting to move into her closing number (I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t White Freight Liner Blues), I thought “Already? She just started playing!” Then I looked at my watch and realized it was after 10:30! Time does fly when you’re having fun.
Kate Campbell at the Rud
The Rud provides an intimate music experience, which perfectly suited this evening with Kate Campbell. I first saw her perform in March of last year, and instantly became a fan for life. Within a few months, I had managed to acquire all of her CD’s. There’s something about her music that taps into parts of me that other songs don’t. This is another subject for a planned upcoming post, so I’m going to hold off on saying any more about it here.
Campbell devoted her set to playing every song off her new CD, Blues and Lamentations, which had come out a few days earlier. I hadn’t gotten a copy yet, because I wanted to do it at the show, so I got to experience the songs for the first time from the songwriter herself, complete with commentary about the origins of each song. Can’t beat that!
She deviated from this course a couple of times, once to insert a New Orleans song, once to do a Kentucky song, and once to do an Alabama song. This allowed her to touch on the place she was born, the place she was singing, and the place that’s been in most people’s minds recently.
It turned out to be one of the most special evenings of music I have ever experienced. After the show I chatted with her a bit and got some CD’s signed. I hope I didn’t babble too incessantly.