The Barbican, London
A 16mm home-movie of the Williams family flickers on the screen at the back of the darkened stage, where the unseen Buick 6 create a skeletal soundscape of slide guitar blues notes, bass pulses and scattered percussion, which all precede a prerecorded spoken introduction from Lucinda.
Anticipation builds until she emerges into the light to introduce this celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the release of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.
She seems incredibly nervous, moreso than I have ever seen her before. After a spoken introduction she launches into Right In Time. Musically it’s a straight version, played as on the album, but she’s changed the phrasing, which keeps throwing the version I’m singing along to myself in my head.
The album is played in its entirety and the sequence of songs remains unchanged. Pretty much every song gets an introduction, talking about the inspiration or the circumstances of its creation. A lot of the information is new, some of it I’ve heard before. I won’t repeat anything here, to avoid spoiling anything for anyone going to other UK dates, but it all adds to the pleasure of hearing these songs anew.
The title track is also subject to rephrasing but as far as I recall it was the last that get that treatment.
As she introduces 2 Kool 2 Be 4 Gotten she’s visibly relaxed. Her diction is much clearer (or I had adjusted to her drawl) but she’s starting to smile and the tension has gone from her face.
The band, Buick 6 – Stuart Mathis on guitars, Davis Sutton on bass and Butch Norton on drums – have been behind her for a fair few years now and are totally sympatico with her and obviously help her feel at home.
The rear projections are changing from song to song. Faces appear who either appear in the songs or were an influence in one way or another.
By this time I realise, that in the space of three songs, I’ve heard Lucinda say more to us than she had in all the half dozen or more gigs of hers I have previously attended.
There wasn’t a single song that I felt was in any way compromised by a slapdash or unfocussed performance. Everything is delivered very professionally but with a lot of warmth as well. I particularly loved Metal Firecracker (with its very amusing introduction), Still I Long For Your Kiss and the album closer Jackson.
So far so very good.
There’s no intermission. The band leave Lucinda for a solo, acoustic performance of The Ghosts Of Highway 20. It’s a very different version, nothing like the languid production on the album. She’s almost brisk in her delivery, and it must have clocked in about half the time of the original.
The band return and kick straight into Fruits Of My Labour which is followed by a gorgeous rendition of Steal Your Love.
The tempo picks up for Changed The Locks and continues into Honey Bee (although I’d have preferred something else, as it is one of the few of Lucinda’s songs I actively dislike).
Then something remarkable happens, as Lu and the Boys move things up a gear into a fabulous performance of Foolishness. It had been a tremendous show already, but this almost took the roof off the hall, which I found extra surprising as hitherto I had regarded it as a minor song on the Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone album. But this was a stupendous rendition. I then had a slight sense of disappointment that more of the gig hadn’t been conducted with this degree of intensity.
Still, when they leave the stage it’s to a well merited, standing ovation.
There’s not much of break and they return. Lu delivers an acapella version of the first part of Faith & Grace which segues into Get Right With God and then it’s goodnight London.
It sends us home with smiles on our faces to match the smile that lit up Lucinda’s face as she and the band took their final bows.
An excellent crowd. Very mixed gender wise. A lot of grey hair around, but a decent proportion of younger audience members. Very respectful of the performance, with no talking or getting up to go to the bar during songs.
It made me think..
As we left my wife said “I’m in love with her, again”. She hadn’t been to the last couple of gigs with me after a particularly surly show we witnessed at Shepherd’s Bush. All is forgiven and rightfully so.
If you are going to any of the remaining UK gigs (this was the first night) you are in for a treat. If you haven’t got a ticket for gig near you, try and get one. You certainly won’t regret it.