Lucinda Williams, Live
As singer-songwriters go, Lucinda Williams is pretty brilliant.
But I had heard mixed things about her in concert. Several friends had reported being disappointed with Lucinda’s live show, while my friend Geoff had raved about her. So when I heard Lucinda was coming to The Egg, I wasn’t sure what to do. In the end, I decided that I wanted to have the Lucinda Williams experience, good or bad, and got tickets.
And I wasn’t at all disappointed. Far from it. Lucinda was great. She sounded good, her song selection was excellent and her band was fantastic. Best of all, she was generous, playing a long set, mixing older songs with new songs from her upcoming album and closing with a foot-stomping cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” She was charismatic, but also a little awkward — an endearing combination. She didn’t talk a lot, but when she did, she was funny and gracious. She danced, praised her band and seemed happy to be there. Lucinda might have off nights. But this certainly wasn’t one of them.
Lucinda’s songs are emotionally direct, evocative, physical and often erotic. She can make you feel like you’re driving down a gravel road with her, or helping her cleanse the last remnants of an old lover from her home. She often sounds sad and angry, but many of her songs are nostalgic and some are even playful. On the driving rocker “Honey Bee,” she sang, “Oh, my little honey bee/I’m so glad you stung me/You’ve become my weakness/Now I’ve got your sweetness/All up in my hair.” On the riveting and soulful “Unsuffer Me,” she slowed things down to create the most intense and achingly beautiful music of the evening, singing “Surround my heartbeat/With your fingertips/Unbound my feet/Untie my wrists.” At times, Lucinda was also extremely personable, explaining that her new song “Compassion,” is one of her father’s poems, set to music.
There’s a lot of melancholy and unhappiness — as well as defiance, desire and wistfulness — in Lucinda’s music, but her concert at The Egg last week was a joyous affair. The audience loved her, and ate up everything she did. And she was energetic and cheerful, behaving as if there was no other place in the world she’d rather be. I have no idea whether Lucinda can bring that level of passion and engagement on a consistent basis, or whether I just lucked out and caught her on one of her good nights. But I definitely got my money’s worth, and I’d happy pay to see her again.
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