Saturday, September 27, 2008

Monday at the Guthrie

Monday was a crazy day--first day back at work after my trip to Nashville for the Americana Conference. From a hectic day of internet problems and an overflowing inbox at the office, I ran over to KFAI to pick up a recorder and meet Dar Williams for an interview. The conversation was lovely, and I was suprised to learn she remembered my grandmother Alice Stanley from her days at Aloha Camp, where she spent many of her summers as a camper and counselor. (Incidentally, it was also the first place I saw Dar play when I was 15 years old.)

I met up with KFAI DJ Beth Shaw, who was my +1 for the evening, and we found our very nice seats at the beautiful new Wurtele-Thrust Stage at the beautiful new Guthrie Theater arts complex on the Mississippi. The stage was set for the play, which is now up in that theater--Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge." The design was beautiful and perfect for a concert of singer-storytellers, with simple wood furniture, a street exterior with brick buildings and a striking sykline. One could imagine all kinds of characters coming and going from that place.

Opening up the show was Shawn Mullins. Although I had always found his music pretty dull and predictable, I was pleasantly surprised by his solo acoustic set. There were some good songs in there, and I was impressed with his voice, which had much more nuance than his polished pop recordings would indicate. Dar came out to sing on one of his big hits "Beautiful Wreck," which made the audience go crazy. In fact, there some pretty hardcore Mullins fans behind us that had clearly come for him and nearly blew out our eardrums with all their hooting and hollering.

After the break, Dar came out with a small band featuring percussionist Everett Bradley and keyboard player Bryn Roberts (whose parents live in Minnesota and were in the audience that night). Here's what was played...

- "The Easy Way" (From the new album--heard this at Falcon Ridge.)
[Here she gave a long intro, talking about how she grew up in a place like Minnesota--a place where people took pride in weathering the cold and ate lots of root vegetables. She then talked about how she used to think she was immune to material things until she realized it was just that she had been broke.]
- "Spring Street" (Nice backing vocals from both Everett and Bryn and great drums.)
- "Farewell to the Old Me"
- "It's Alright" (With Shawn Mullins...another one from the new CD and my current favorite from it--a really great poppy post-breakup song.)
- "Book of Love"
- "Blue Light of Fame" (Dedicated to 2 friends named Rachel who died--pretty sure one of the ones she was talking about was Rachel Bissex.)
- "The Buzzer" (About the 1960's Milgrom experiments--this one rocked with the band.)
[At this point, Bryn and Everett left the stage, and Dar played 2 songs solo.]
- "The Holly Tree" (A really beautiful truly folkie tune--my other favorite on the new CD.)
[Dar then launched into a super-long intro about how she admires parents who are raising their kids to be really out there. The she dedicated it to teachers and in particular this one man that raised great kids, who went to good colleges and have gone on to do all these wonderful things in the world..."So I'd like to dedicate this to my good friend Al Franken." It was a pretty brilliant intro because no one expected it to end like that.]
- "The One Who Knows"
- "Echoes" (Although this wasn't one of my favorites from her album My Better Self, this sounded great with the band, which returned.)
- "As Cool As I Am" (A really rockin' version of this fan favorite.)
- "You Are Everyone" (with Shawn)
- "Midnight Radio"
- "Mercy of the Fallen" (Really great ender!)
Encore: "The Babysitter's Here" (solo)
[Up until the encore, the audience was a well-behaved, polite Minneosta audience, but by this point, fans let loose with all the old-school Dar requests that you'd expect--"Iowa," "When I Was a Boy," "The Babysitter's Here." She went with "The Babysitter's Here"--the only one she actually played from that early Dar era. It was kind of cool that she managed to play mostly new stuff, although I have to say if we were going to hear one old song, I'd have preferred "Iowa" but...a lot of fans were happy, and it was sweet end to a lovely show.]

Following the show, Beth and I hit Grumpy's for a late mushroom swiss burger I had had in who knows how long. A tasty end to a busy but great day.

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