Friday, September 07, 2007

Luncinda Williams at the El Rey

Lucinda Williams at the El Rey Theater, Los Angeles; September 6, 2007

Why do I love LA? Because sometimes an awesome idea becomes realized. Lucinda Williams decided to do a set of dates at LA’s El Rey theater. But instead of the same set each night, she performs one album in its entirety each night. The albums: World without Tears; Essence; Car Wheels on a Gravel Road; Sweet Old World; Lucinda Williams

Three or four years ago, my father discovered Lucinda Williams and one day sent me practically her entire catalogue from From these shows, I picked my favorite, Essence, and it turned out to be solid awsomeness.

In the will-call line, we stood one couple in front of my boyfriend’s favorite artist, Lucinda’s onetime boyfriend, Mike Stinson (LA Magazine declares Stinson LA’s finest coutry-western singer/songwriter) and Stinson's new girlfriend Pamela Des Barres. Later I stood in line in front of Pamela as we waited in the ladies bathroom line (uncomfortable much?) and Stinson and Des Barres again stood behind us for much of Lucinda’s first half. My bf wanted to tell Stinson he loved his last show, especially his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” but never got the chance. I wanted to tell Pamela I was in a state of extreme conflict about identity issues and co-dependency I preceived when I read her first book I’m With the Band when I was a tween. But I refrained.

Although I’m starting to love Lucinda’s dark, gothic evangelical songs, I’ve always loved the more mellow tracks on Essence, its evocative loneliness and unity of sound.

She sang the album in its order:
1. Lonely Girls (love it)
2. Steal Your Love (had to restart a few times)
3. I Envy The Wind (bf loves this one)
4. Blue
5. Out Of Touch (about her sister, not a past lover)
6. Are You Down?
7. Essence (absolutely kicked ass)
8. Reason To Cry
9. Get Right With God (absolutely kicked ass)
10. Bus To Baton Rouge (bf loves this one, said it made him vaclempt)
11. Broken Butterflies

And then I thought that would be it but after a 30 minute intermission, Lucinda played a second set with some of her favorite LA artists as guests.

She did a duet of the Carter/Cash classic "Jackson" (absolutely kicked ass)

She also did:
- Reason to Cry
- Are You Alright
- Drunken Angel
- And Unsuffer Me and People Talkin (love both of those)

She did a new song from West called "Honey Bee" which caused controversy in our little group over whether or not one can write a good love song in a happy state.

Her guests included Greg Dulli, Tim Easton, and Mike Stinson who sang “Slip My Mind for Me” with Lucinda. It reminded my bf and me of the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

I was respectfully impressed by this show simply due to the amount of songs Lucinda had to relearn for five brief nights. Imagine how the new guitarist in the band must have felt. And imagine hearing “Bless their hearts!” from the rough, southern voice of Lucinda, who's natural physical state seems to be a little drunk on something, if not booze.

On another blog I’ve been talking about the beauty of imperfection. Lucinda is the poster child for imperfect beauty. She starts and stops her songs all the time (“we’re recording and I wanna get it right”) if a song is too slow or off key or she forgets a lyric. She rambles on with self-deprecation about missed sound checks and misplaced friends. She sports strange outfits like a tight black cocktail dress over jeans.

I've seen Lucinda twice before, once with my parents when she opened for Willie Nelson at the Santa Barabara Bowl and once when she performed with her father, poet Miller Williams, at UCLA's Royce Hall. Each show I've seen has been entirely unique. But she’s the pinnacle, the closest artist to Bob Dylan, our friend declared to a woman seeing Lucinda for the first time last night. She nails it, shows you the perfection in the imperfection. Her lyrics are spartan yet poetic and her music is country, folk and blues. If she were a food she’d be salmon on a bed of gravy and rice: cooked fine and delicate on top, served sloppy on the bottom.

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