Patty Griffin: Out To Lunch
“Well-l-l-l …” Patty Griffin commenced proceedings, followed tightly by the signature rockabilly downward curve guitar rumble of “Move Up” from her 2010 album Downtown Church. “I’m going to go on home to Jesus over in glory land” she belted out, as the gospel honed into the bass and Patty clapped, and touched ever so slightly on a wee drop of scat.
The seated audience at the Black Box were shifting in their chairs. This was song #1 of Griffin’s Out To Lunch Festival date, and we had gospel as a chaperone, keeping not too discrete a distance throughout the night. Billy Harvey laid down his bass and moved on up to the scriptural keys for “Standing”. A couple of the men on stage were repeating the song title as Griffin’s voice gradually got bigger. As the song got bigger. As the congregation kept watch on the servants of the bar.
However, that was only one element of the show. “Made of the Sun” from last year’s Servant of Love album shifted the tenor. It shifted her voice from mighty to heartfelt, and it brought us to a more personal place. “If I had to choose one moment for forever/ My friend, I tell you, that would be the one”.
She gave us a gorgeous guitar duet with David Pulkingham on the country folk beauty “Long Ride Home”, but she moved to the keyboards for “Servant of Love”, the title track to that latest album. “You’re all so polite and quiet out there” she smiled. We were – it was a school night and we were seated and there was too much happening on stage. The stark piano augured the drama of what was going to happen next. “I long to live by the ocean” she sang, her voice rising up from her belly, holding the notes long. She played piano like rising sea while Pulkingham drew unearthly noise from his guitar, pausing periodically for us to concentrate on her voice, on her words.
The history behind “Ohio” kept us listening hard to the song about the Underground Railroad, the 19th-century slave escape route. Harvey again was on keyboards for this number, leaving the song with no official bass, but grinding a deep heartbeat. Griffin’s and Pulkingham’s guitars chimed, while he drew out twangs and tones like a cowed train whistle. Conrad Choucroun on drums adding ballast to that heartbeat as the character of the track shifted from Velvet Underground to slave work song.
It was 18 January – Martin Luther King Day, so it all made sense that “Up to the Mountain” was her parting gift. It brought us full circle back to the gospel, to the enormous voice and the congregational passion of the start of the show. It showed off her crew, and it reminded us of the numbers from earlier that had made us stop short. This was my first time seeing Patty Griffin live. I’m now tracking her on Bandcamp – this gig was outstanding.
Originally published in CultureHub Magazine