concert reviews

Lucinda Williams at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Saturday 14 August 2004

"Now that I've made it, I think people like to take potshots at me," Lucinda Williams said Saturday night at the 9:30 club. She was introducing her song "Righteously," which she said was panned in No Depression magazine. It's hard, though, to feel much sympathy for a performer who would announce that she's "made it" and then bemoan the problems related to such a fortunate development.

Lyrically, Williams's songs painted vivid pictures, from the imagery of a scorpion's nest in "Those Three Days" to the straightforward narrative of "The Night's Too Long." Unfortunately, those lyrics were buried under her raspy, emotionless vocals, and her music watered down her blues and country influences to a few generic guitar riffs and an unvarying drumbeat. Williams's encore included a few engaging, subtle ballads ("Minneapolis," "Like a Rose"), but by then it was too little too late.

Williams encouraged the crowd to dance during "Are You Down," but sold-out shows at the 9:30 club are so packed that the audience can barely move, or sometimes even see the performer onstage. That may be for the best, as the view was often of Williams casually conferring with her band mates -- and up to two roadies -- between songs, and blatantly reading her own lyrics as she sang from a book that a crew member had to turn the pages of. This conduct might have been forgivable from a musician just starting out, unsure how to prepare a set list or afraid of forgetting the words she had written, but such unprofessional behavior is disappointing for someone who's been at this as long as Williams.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 16 August 2004
.: Selected discography: World Without Tears (Lucinda Williams, 2003); Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Lucinda Williams, 1998).