- Last Updated: 10:34 AM, August 8, 2012
- Posted: 11:35 PM, August 7, 2012
More shows tomorrow and Friday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
‘I love playing here,” said Lucinda Williams between her first and second songs at the Bowery Ballroom on Monday.
You could tell, too. Clad in black, with gray cowboy boots, the roots-rock singer-songwriter played for two assured hours on the first night of her two-show Bowery stand, touching on all the records she’s done from 1988’s “Lucinda Williams” up through last year’s “Blessed.”
The flannel-heavy crowd clearly loved the 59-year-old Louisianan right back. Averaging well over age 40, the audience had a very NPR vibe, applauding loudly when Williams bemoaned the recent Sikh temple shootings in Wisconsin and called for stricter gun control.
But the loudest shouts came for the songs — and frequently, the songs deserved them. “Side of the Road” (from “Lucinda Williams”) nails a complicated emotion with unfussy words: “Let me go and stand awhile/I want to know you’re there, but I want to be alone.” The up-and-down melody of “Drunken Angel” (from her 1998 breakthrough album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”) sways like it’s both tipsy and reeling from the news that a friend has died.
Maybe the best line of the night was one of the simplest, in the hard-rocker “Come On”: “You couldn’t even light my fire, so [expletive] off.” Ouch.
Williams has long romanticized roguish men — so much so that she jokes about it. Introducing “Buttercup” (from “Blessed”), she vowed that it was “the only bad-boy song on the last album.”
Williams’ voice is strong, but its particulars are beginning to blur. There weren’t too many fricatives — hard T’s or K’s — when she sang, yet most of the time her words were distinct. Not always, though: The line “Can’t force the river upstream,” from “Are You Down,” sounded more like “force the river astray.” (To her credit, it made sense both ways.)
Williams’ band, a trio dubbed Buick 6 (after Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick 6”), is as versatile as she is. They downshifted from a rocker to a hush on “Can’t Let Go,” written by Randy Weeks (one of four covers; the others were songs by the Allman Brothers Band, Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen), played it coolly atmospheric on “Are You Down,” and offered a stomping, churchy rave-up for the final encore, “Get Right With God.”
“Even when they’re loose, they’re still good,” Williams crowed of the group. She had a point.