That voice. That damn voice.
That voice is instantly recognizable and is a big part of Lucinda Williams success. Well, that and her ability to write a great tune and pair it with simple, down to earth and heartfelt lyrics. It has been a formula that Williams hasn’t strayed from and why she has been a critical and commercial success for the last 40 years.
For those who aren’t familiar, Williams is one of the most respected and influential country, rock and Americana artists of her generation. She has won Grammys and toured the world but has never reached super-stardom. However, because of the honesty and vulnerability in her craft, she has developed a loyal and devoted fan following.
Many of her songs are about falling hard and quick for the wrong person. In other tunes, whiskey and loneliness make cameos. When listening to her catalog, you get the impression that she has made some bad decisions, but has never regretted them.
I had been looking forward to this show all summer, partly because I had never seen Williams live and partly because the show was being held at the Grand Valley Dale Ballroom. Neither disappointed.
The GVDB has been opened 100 years as a rental space and a concert venue. Located north of Ohio Dominican College in the Brittany Hills neighborhood, the GVDB has hosted big band luminaries Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Rudy Valee, Jimmy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Duke Elington, Perry Como, Count Basie and Bing Crosby. Not too shabby.
The following photos were taken from the VIP section that my buddy Tom and I snuck into (yeah, I know I’m 40):
Here is a board containing famous acts that have performed at the GVDB in the past:
You can read the whole board if you like, but I will save you time tell you the five best shows (not previously mentioned) on the board:
- The Isley Brothers
- Al Green
- Otis Redding
- Lou Reed (not on the board, but my friend’s husband was at the show in the 1970s)
- Leon Russel
You can practically feel the history when you walk into the GVDB and the inside looks like a smaller and cleaner version of the Newport Music Hall.
The light structures were pretty amazing as well:
The show was (rumored) to be a 900 person sell out. This makes sense, as I ran into many friends and co-workers (Greg, Michelle, Laura, Jeff, Kellie, Denise). Tom was a good sport about meeting so many people because the people you meet at a Lucinda Williams are, by nature, pretty kick ass.
Local favorite and WCBE stalwarts Angela Perley and The Howlin’ Moons opened. They took this opportunity to impress the crowd and repeatedly thanked Williams for the slot. They had just returned from a regional tour and their Americana sound was passionate, polished and precise. If you get a chance, support your local businesses and local music scene and see them live.
Williams walked out solo, quickly followed by her three piece (lead guitar, bass, drums) backing band. All three were talented musicians, sang their hearts out and operated as a well oiled machine. They were true Road Warriors and rarely took a break during their 130 minute set.
Williams sounded great, sipped red wine and repeatedly told the crowd how much she loved the GVDB. She did not play guitar often, but made up for it with some world class storytelling – it was everything I wanted and expected. In fact, if she didn’t tell the stories behind the songs and about her life, I would have been disappointed.
Williams covered a lot of her catalog, but not her most popular song ‘Passionate Kisses‘. Some in the crowd were disappointed by this slight, but I respected the spirit of that choice. Williams certainly didn’t get to where she is today by following the rules.
Other well performed crowd favorites were ‘Drunken Angel‘, ‘Honey Bee‘ and ‘Righteously‘. There were two encores and the night was finished with an 8 minute cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin in the Free World’. It was a great show and to say that Tom and I each got our $25 worth would be the understatement of the year.
Most bigger cities have hidden gems/music venues like this and it is great to see Columbus back in this mix. Sure, it is not The Ryman, Red Rocks or Radio City but it is ours and we should be proud of that. If nothing else, it provides an intimate 900 seat venue for national acts and this town has needed that for a very long time.
ADDITIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS
- Mikey’s Late Night had a food truck out front. Lets hope that is a trend that continues.
- Don Henley’s Cass County is a great album and Williams contributes backing vocals on ‘Train in the Distance‘. The album is OLD SCHOOL country and features guests Mick Jagger, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson and Dolly Parton. Definitely worth the listen.