Saturday, June 11, 2011

One more night

One of the benefits of having favorite singers who aren't terribly well-known is the ability to see them in exceedingly small venues. One of the drawbacks of having favorite singers who aren't terribly well-known is the inability to see them frequently. I've been a fan of Kelly Willis since 1995, and I've seen her and her husband Bruce Robison in concert--solo or as a duet--several times. I've almost always had to drive a couple hours minimum to enjoy them live, though. To my knowledge she's never played Columbus. (One of the shortest drives to see Kelly play was Newport, Kentucky four years ago.) Bruce was here two years ago almost to the day.

When the announcement of their Columbus concert arrived in my inbox, I had a check in the mail a day or two later. My haste was probably unnecessary, but this was not something I was going to miss. I've been waiting ages for her to book a Columbus show, and the two of them don't perform together a lot. Plus, I wanted to send a message to the independent promoter: thanks for booking them and let my quick order indicate I'd like for you to bring them back, individually or together, again. I surely sound silly in the scenario, but know that I was even agitated with anticipation today waiting for showtime.

If that sounds like I'm laying burdensome expectations on the performers, I suspect they would have had to crash and burn on a spectacular level for me to be disappointed. Never fear. It was kind of remarkable how deeply felt the old songs were, like becoming reacquainted with friends who have been out of touch for a long time. I haven't been listening to Bruce or Kelly much of late, so returning to these songs was to be reminded of how much I love them and where I was in life when I first heard them. I don't mean that it was a nostalgic experience--just the opposite in some instances--but that it brought into the light the history these songs have for me.

They're preparing a joint album, which is part of the reason why they're doing a few brief stints on the road. Much to my excitement, this meant new songs, and more than I would have expected. In many respects, certainly in this one, the concert couldn't have been any better. New material, old favorites, and both of them on stage together!

The venue seems like the unlikeliest place and the most appropriate one for a country music concert. It was held in a German social club's concert hall, with American and German flags straddling the stage. (Considering Robison's German heritage, it is strangely fitting.) The unpretentious room made it seem more like a private party than a performance for which tickets were sold, yet for country music in particular, this casual gathering wherever it could be arranged seemed right. There was less physical and mental distance between those on stage and those in the audience. It seemed like a music hall that a whole Texas town might pile into on a Saturday night.

The arrangement of the room led to an amusing moment near the show's conclusion. Bruce and Kelly returned for an encore without their upright bass player and steel pedal/electric guitarist. They then called for their band members to come on stage. The bassist made his way to the stage with no sign of the guitarist. Eventually he emerged from the bathroom directly stage right within view of everyone. That got a good laugh from the crowd.

Sadly, this was the next to last concert that this promoter will be putting on at the German social club. The property was sold, thus necessitating for shows like this one to find a new home. So, chances are that this was my third and final time in the space. Here's to finding a good replacement for when these fine singer-songwriters hopefully return.

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