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Last Night: Lucinda Williams at the House of Blues

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Lucinda Williams
House of Blues
February 19, 2009

Better than: sitting on my couch trying to (badly) play Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel" because it has easy chords (as opposed to "Crescent City" which has harder ones).

Word was that folks at the House of Blues were fairly blue--ticket sales for Lucinda Williams' show at the venue had been surprisingly slow.

But such news is dubious seeing that Williams' concert at the Granada a couple of years back was packed to the rafters as ticket scalpers stalked Greenville Avenue with a vengeance.

So no surprise then that, lo and behold, at 8:30 last night, the walk-up crowd was significant. By the time Lucinda hit the stage, the venue was at about 90 percent capacity.

Starting out with "Can't Let Go" from her seminal album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams made it clear that this evening was going to contain chestnuts from throughout her storied career.

With her hair dyed jet black, Williams resembled Joan Jett as she powered her way through new songs such as the potent single "Real Love" as well as crowd favorites such as "Drunken Angel," "Right in Time" and "Joy." And despite the subpar sound (way too much volume on her vocals), Williams was energized throughout the evening, peppering the crowd with compliments for its enthusiasm.

For a Thursday evening, most in attendance took to celebrating the weekend early as the libations were flowing quite freely. When Williams sang, "Everybody's had a few" from "Crescent City," she wasn't lying. Playing with a relatively new backing ensemble, Williams slowed things down for a brief acoustic set towards the middle of the evening, but for the most part, she chose to keep things rocking. And by the time she made it to "Bleeding Fingers," it was obvious that her and her band might have had a few, too.

Overall, it was another impressive display by the queen of alt-country, an evening of emotional highs and lows, songs delivered with an unfettered honesty that speaks to exactly the reason why Lucinda Williams is so highly thought of amongst both critics and fans.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've been a fan of Lucinda for over 20 years now, finding a definite maleness to her ruminations on loves and losers. I once got into a very heated argument with Austin's renowned music critic Michael Corcoran over the merits of Lucinda way back in the '80s. Corcoran wasn't as impressed as I with Williams' way with tune and tongue. Needless to say, time has proven me right, although Corcoran probably doesn't remember the drunken exchange. Or me.

Random Note: It would appear that Williams has a significant following amongst folks with an alternative lifestyle, as their presence was, ahem, felt all evening. During Williams' beautiful acoustic take of "Side of the Road," there were as many swaying men in the crowd as females. Now I'm not saying that men can't sway... but I waited vainly for Williams to break out a cover of Cher's "Believe."

By The way: Opening act Buick 6 was simply Lucinda's backing band. The (mostly) instrumental set demonstrated why Williams uses them, but extended jams of rock warhorses such as "Pipeline" and "Black Dog" did little to work up the crowd. The most unexpected cover choice was Television's "Marquee Moon," but I doubt very few in the place knew the song's origin.

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