Thursday, August 04, 2011

Gillian Welch plays stunning set at the NC Museum of Art

All photos by Kevin Norris
The stellar duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings rolled into Raleigh Wednesday night with new music in tow. They released The Harrow and the Harvest, the first new Gillian Welch album since 2003's Soul Journey, in June and were eager to show off the new music.

Right out the gate though, they dug into the back catalog, opening with "Tear My Stillhouse Down," a song they say they haven't played in quite a while.

The duo sounded as great as ever, their two voices and two instruments filling the hot, humid night air, sounding bigger that some full bands.

Welch noted the somewhat depressing tone of their songs, the new material from The Harrow and the Harvest in particular.

"Ever since David and I started playing, we've never been known for our sunshiny, perkier numbers," Welch joked, before Rawlings jumped in to add, "This song is guaranteed to bring you right down."

With that, the pair launched into "The Way It Will Be," a hauntingly beautiful tune.

They rolled through the first set with ease, mixing new songs like "The Way It Goes" and "Tennessee" with classics like "Rock of Ages" and "Annabelle." After a bit of confusion between the two about the closing song of the first set, they settled on "Red Clay Halo," much to the pleasure of the crowd, who clapped in time and sang along.

The duo returned for their second set and launched into "My First Lover," which also was the cue for a summer shower to rear its head. As the crowd parked in front of the stage scrambled forward in an attempt for some protection, the band rolled through a few more songs and the rain ceased.

"Revelator" from the band's widely celebrated 2001 album Time (The Revelator) was a show-stopper in the set. The song featured a number of David Rawlings' most jaw dropping guitar solos of the evening. The song received a standing ovation.

Much to the crowd's delight, Rawlings took lead vocals on "Sweet Tooth," a song from The Dave Rawlings Machine's 2009 debut A Friend of a Friend.

It was followed by the beautiful ballad, and for my money the best song from the new album, "Hard Times." The song beings with the dulcet tones of a banjo and Welch's sweet voice before being joined by Rawlings. It's destined to become a set staple for years to come.

The second set ended with a blistering version of "Caleb Meyers." The duo was only gone for a moment and returned, telling the crowd they were ignoring the encore theatrics since they were informed more storms were headed towards the venue.

"Six White Horses" started the encore, and featured Welch stepping aside during a few instrumental breaks to do a little dancing. They closed the night out with two amazing covers, Johnny and June Carter Cash's classic duet "Jackson" and Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic tune "White Rabbit."

Welch and Rawlings are untouchable at what they do and are only getting better with age. The soul and songwriting of the pair matched with Rawlings phenomenal oneness with his instrument is hard to put into words. If you've never seen the band perform live, you're missing out.

Set list
Tear My Stillhouse Down
Down Along the Dixie Line
Rock of Ages
The Way It Will Be
Elvis Presley Blues
The Way It Goes
Wayside/Back in Time
Red Clay Halo
My First Lover
Dark Turn of Mind
Look at Miss Ohio
Silver Dagger
Sweet Tooth
Hard Times
Caleb Meyer
Six White Horses
White Rabbit


Jeremy Blair said...

great pics, as always

Jarrett said...

One of my favorite moments of the summer, lying on the lawn at the NC Art Museum and listening to Welch and Rawlings while a gentle summer rain cooled off the evening.

You have to love a show where the only set decoration is a couple of mic stands and guitar stands and the musicians stroll on-stage carrying everything they need for the evening.

Fantastic show.