Wednesday, May 16, 2012

M. Ward plays sharp, dynamic set at Page Auditorium

Singer songwriter M. Ward brought the tour in support of his latest album A Wasteland Companion to Page Auditorium at Duke last night and the crowd was treated to a dynamic set showcasing his new music as well as his fantastic catalog.

Ward, backed by a trio of musicians, started things mellow with "Post-War," "Clean Slate" and "Watch the Show," each of which showcased his gravely baritone voice and signature guitar playing. The breezy "For Beginners" shifted the vibe set, setting the tone for the dynamic set to follow.

The back of the stage was lined with large windows which projected beautiful scenes of clouds rolling by, city buildings at night, birds flying and more. It simple and not distracting, yet one of the nicest visual elements I've ever seen used at a concert.

The rocking "Whole Lotta Losin'" from the Monsters of Folk album (a supergroup featuring Ward, Conor Oberst, Jim James and Mike Mogis) was a nice, unexpected inclusion in the set. Ward then took the opportunity to slow things down a bit, playing three songs solo, "Eyes on the Prize," a blistering instrumental and "The First Time I Ran Away."

The second half of the set saw the band get more fiery, turning up the volume and tempo on "Rollercoaster," "Magic Trick," "I Get Ideas" and the classic Buddy Holly tune "Rave On."

The set closed with the catchy "Never Had Nobody Like You," which had a more bluesy swagger than the recording, and the Daniel Johnston song "To Go Home."

The band returned fairly quickly for an upbeat encore of "Primitive Girl" and "Big Boat," the latter of which featured Ward on a grand piano. After rocking through the song, Ward left the stage like a rock star, leaving his band behind to play a bit longer to close things out.

M. Ward rarely talked to the crowd, except when he checked to make sure the crowd was okay because they were so quiet, but let his songs and stellar guitar playing speak for him, and they speak volumes.

Indie rock icon Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth opened the show backed by a three-piece band featuring fellow Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley on drums. The band ripped through songs from Ranaldo's new album Between the Times & the Tides. One of the highlights of the set was a fantastic cover of Talking Heads' "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel."

M. Ward setlist
Clean Slate
Watch the Show
For Beginners
Poison Cup
Whole Lotta Losin'
Eyes on the Prize
The First Time I Ran Away
Chinese Translation
Magic Trick
Me and My Shadow
I Get Ideas
Rave On
Never Had Nobody Like You
To Go Home
Primitive Girl
Big Boat

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