Review: Lucinda Williams breaks bond with baffled audience

Engaging and frustrating: Lucinda Williams
19 Jun 2013 @ 1.44 pm
| Entertainment

Engaging and frustrating: Lucinda Williams
Engaging and frustrating: Lucinda Williams
Review: Lucinda Williams
Venue: Grand Opera House, June 19


Lucinda Williams is a notoriously complex character, her highly-tuned sensitivity infusing her music with a rare, and beautifully-expressed, emotional intelligence. But there’s a downside when she is performing live, as a startled Grand Opera House audience discovered last night.

Halfway through an engaging, and – on occasions – uplifting set, Williams first of all complained about the sound, which was perfect, and then seemed to indicate that she wasn’t getting enough response from the appreciative crowd. In a flash, she had shattered that sacred bond between a live performer and their audience.

What a pity. Williams had started at a cracking pace, with a sublime version of Jackson, featuring some aching beautiful pedal steel guitar from the talented Doug Pettibone, followed up by a superb new song called When I Look At The World and then Copenhagen, the tragic story about love and loss in a cold climate from her 2011 album Blessed.

The sensual Right In Time, delivered in her trademark lustrous drawl, and a coruscating Metal Firecracker, maintained the excellent standard. I felt we were on course for a memorable evening, as she explored her land of broken dreams.

Williams, however, wasn’t happy. She made a public point of changing the set-list, veering towards rock, rather than country, which meant that longed-for classics such as Lake Charles, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Passionate Kisses and Sweet Old World remained unplayed, whilst we were treated a blizzard of sound, as she and Pettibone exchanged raucous riffs. The challenging Joy was the low-point of the evening, but the storming Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Guitar Strings illustrated that she had a great rock voice, given the right song.

Thankfully Williams came back for an encore, turning down the volume for a haunting version of Nick Drake’s River Man and the gorgeous Over Time, which she wrote for Willie Nelson. Billed as An Intimate Evening with Lucinda Williams, the intimacy was sadly lost along the way once Williams mistook the audience’s appreciation for indifference.

Support was provided by the charismatic and self-deprecating Jimmy Livingstone, who told us that he was more used to playing “in front of two drunks and a dog”. Maybe that kind of audience would have suited the fragile Lucinda Williams better.