Spellbinding Lucinda Williams gig at Liverpool Philharmonic
You never quite know what to expect from a Lucinda Williams gig – but on this tour she is definitely ‘Happy Lucinda’, seemingly content in her own skin at the unbelievable age of 60, and thoroughly enjoying herself. And this was gloriously reflected in her performance, along with Doug Pettibone on guitar, and David Sutton on bass, the Liverpool Philharmonic crowd were given a real treat.
The first part of the set consisted of some of her most fabulous acoustic songs, which she introduced in an open and entertaining way with little vignettes of information about them: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road – which she described as photographs of her childhood while travelling round the south with her parents; Greenville with its haunting pedal steel accompaniment; and Pineola – about a gifted young poet friend of her family who committed suicide.
She proved (as if she has to…) what a top class songwriter she is with a wonderful new song called When I Look at the World – written to remind herself to see the glass half full. And of course the audience favourite Drunken Angel, which was actually written about one of her ‘beautiful loser’ friends Blaze Foley. He was a talented musician and larger than life Texas character who hung about with Townes Van Zandt. (And if you are not familiar with his songs, I urge you to check out the magnetically beautiful Clay Pigeons for starters.) Foley came to a sad end, hence the song, which Williams admitted could just as easily apply to Gram Parsons or to Townes himself.
Then rocking Lucinda came out with an electric guitar section including a cover of the old Skip James Delta Blues song Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. Williams has never been afraid to confront her personal demons and dark experiences in song, and she also used her set to remind us that this song about hard times is just as relevant today with the current economic climate, as it was when it was written back in 1931. And she has just re-recorded a version of Joy for the West Memphis Three campaign. These are three Arkansas men who were convicted of murder and released after 18 years in prison, who are fighting to clear their names. And Essence , her spellbindingly dark love song was just brilliant.
For her encore she played a couple of great songs that have been made famous by other people – Passionate Kisses, recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Over Time, by Willie Nelson. It was a good reminder of how high an esteem she is held in – she is pure song writing royalty. She also did a touching cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Factory.
It was a real joy to see her happy and showcasing her remarkable back catalogue in such a positive and relaxed manner. And reminding us that she is still going strong with some new material. She thanked all her crew by name, but the real thanks go from us to Lucinda Williams, for her treasure trove of songs, and a wonderful live performance. I’m sure she will rock the stage at Glastonbury!