Bonnie "Prince" Billy
June 6, 2009
Better Than: The George Strait concert at Cowboys Stadium, or pretty much anything else any of you suckers were doing on Saturday night.
Opening with a ramshackle version of the Stanley Brothers classic "Nobody's Darling on Earth," it was readily apparent that Bonnie "Prince" Billy's first North Texas date in nearly a decade was to be a true full-band affair, with each member taking a lead vocal as namesake Will Oldham beamed proudly from the side of the stage.
But as the song progressed, it quickly became clear why so many of us were there to see Oldham in the first place--his high mountain tenor easily shone above it all, even drowning out his bandmates at times, as it rang through the theater.
Though he's currently on the road to support his new record, Beware, Oldham sampled a sizable portion of his entire catalog through the set, touching on nearly every Bonnie "Prince" Billy LP and throwing in a few Palace chestnuts for good measure.
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"Ease Down the Road" shined thanks to the lovely fiddle work of new bandmate Cheyenne Mize, while "In My Kingdom" built into a killer crescendo as noted drummer Jim White (Nick Cave, Dirty Three, Cat Power) theatrically swung his mallets in time with an auxiliary percussionist. "Death to Everyone" was even more menacing compared to it's original incarnation on I See A Darkness, with Eastern-tinged guitars building into an epic, chanting, psychedelic blues--a style the band took to new heights later in the set with "The Seedling". Anyone who's ever listened to a Will Oldham record knows the man's a sucker for a good duet, too, and Mize was certainly up to the challenge, providing lovely vocals on the Palace favorite "Agnes, Queen of Sorrow" and a tear-jerking rendition of the traditional folk classic "Silver Threads Among the Gold."
A mid-set run of quieter ballads lost a little of the momentum the band had been building, but any filler--and let's be honest, nearly every Oldham album has a little of it--was quickly forgiven as Oldham joked with the crowd about David Carradine's death (Oldham hopes he's still that kinky when he's that age) and ran through crowd favorites like "I See A Darkness" and the Palace favorite "New Partner" (though it's a testament to Oldham's catalog that the highlights of the set came not on these "hits," but on newer material like the set-closing romp "You Don't Love Me").
Personal Bias: I have a beard and write folk songs. Obviously, I own more than a few Oldham records.
Random Note: Opener Neil Michael Hagerty has done some interesting things with Royal Trux and his current project the Howling Hex, but the current line-up of the band pales compared to when Fort Worth's The Theater Fire backed him up for an entire album. And that's putting it lightly--it's usually not a good sign when you announce your last song and an audience member screams "Thank God!" The three songs I heard were some of the most mind-numbingly repetitive hippie bullshit I've ever had the displeasure of listening to. One number repeated the lyrics "Rockin' cowboy songs/useless vibrations" and "How many steps in/how many steps out?" at least 50 times, while the closer has something to do with a "can of beans". If you've ever seen three dirty hippie kids playing bad Grateful Dead covers at a dorm talent show, then you've basically seen the current incarnation of the Howling Hex.