Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lucinda Williams at House of Blues

I missed Lucinda Williams' set at Jazz Fest on Friday, so I was glad to find out that she was playing Saturday night at the House of the Blues in the French Quarter, just a few steps from our hotel on Canal Street.

It's one of the few times in the last few years that I've failed to purchase a ticket in advance to a major concert. The show was sold out, but I tried my luck anyway, and found a ticket for $30, less than face value.

The Austin singer-songwriter, as per usual, showed up looking like she'd just rolled out of bed after a bender. Her hair was two-toned (multicolor brown), her bra straps were showing and she wore heavy eye liner. Tattoos snaked around her left arm and she wore a choker necklace.

Affected look? Only partly, I think. Williams' hard drinking, sleepless nights and overall hard living, soon to be recounted in a memoir, has taken its toll (I kept thinking of Keith Richards as I observed her) and its effects include, perhaps, memory loss. From time to time, she glanced down at a notebook full of her lyrics.

Williams' Texas/Louisiana-flavored vocals and songwriting skills are as appealing as ever. Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she opened tough with an unadorned, beautifully plain-spoken rendition of her "Passionate Kisses," a Top 10 single for Mary Chapin Carpenter.

She and her first-rate roots-rock/country/Americana band also offered "Drunken Angel," "Lake Charles," the pissed-off breakup kiss-off "Come On" and several other tunes from her new West CD and earlier albums.

Australian-born guitarist Anne McCue opened for Williams (sad to say, I missed her set) and joined the band for "You Took My Joy," another angry song from West. McCue, selected by Williams to join the latter's 2002 tour, is a slide guitarist of the earth-scorching variety, a real rising star.

Louisiana guitarist C.C. Adcock joined Williams' band for the blues standard "Come to Me Baby" and both guests sat in for the closer, the singer's Grammy-winning "Get Right With God."

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