I really really thought I was finished with this tour after my two-show adventure in Philadelphia, but then on Thursday my long-time email correspondent and recent tour buddy Rhonda sent me an email confirming she was going to drive from Western PA for the tour closer in Towson, Maryland. I hadn't even considered going to this show, but after doing some research and finding out it was on a Saturday and that I could drive each way in about four and a half hours, I was hooked. I begged the indulgence of my long-suffering non-alt-country spouse one last time ("You're absolutely sure this is her last concert?!"), ordered myself a ticket and booked a hotel room. I just had to see Lucinda express herself and sing some of those wonderful new songs one more time.
I left home about 11:30 Saturday morning and fought my way through murderous weekend traffic in Staten Island and New Jersey, which at least gave me the chance to check out a really wonderful CD Bramble Rose by Tift Merritt (another Lost Highway artist) which was recommended to me by the same friend who introduced me to Lucinda's music last year. Finally I arrived in the college town of Towson just north of Baltimore about 4:30. I checked into the hotel, walked out of the lobby and ran right into Rhonda. We just laughed and embraced and marveled at the fact we were both crazy enough to be there. Neither of us have had any semblance of a normal life the past two weeks since Lu played in Pittsburgh.
After getting settled into our rooms, we walked the quarter-mile or so to the theatre, which was still closed, and went to Souri's Tavern across the street for a beer and to grab something to eat. We speculated about the show we were about to see; hopefully Lu would be in a good mood at the end of a long tour, but this would also be the third night in a row in different locations, and we hoped it wouldn't play out like last year's closer at the Riviera in Chicago which we had both heard recordings of - Lu's heart stomped on, a rowdy and insensitive crowd, and her voice finally giving out during the encores. The Towson show had apparently sold out minutes after I ordered my ticket, and Rhonda (who wasn't able to convince any of her local friends to attend) had arranged for Chris from Philly to meet us before the show. He decided at the last minute to make the trip down for the show, and so Rhonda had a buyer for her extra ticket and we would have the pleasure of meeting Chris face-to-face.
Chris soon arrived, confirming the show started at 9:00, and we talked about the Philly shows earlier in the week and a number of Lucinda's concerts Chris had gone to over the years, since he's been a fan much longer than either of us. We got into a senseless argument (no one was shot & killed however) about which album the studio version of Something About What Happens When We Talk appears on, Rhonda and Chris both insisting it was Lucinda Williams and me maintaining it was Sweet Old World - Rhonda, if you're reading this don't forget you owe me 50¢. I walked out periodically to keep an eye on the theatre, and when a few people showed up out front we paid our tab and walked over to get on the will-call line.
|Chris and Rhonda Before the Show
We talked to the theatre manager while waiting to get in, and he told us Lucinda was in a good mood and happy to be going home, after which we breathed a sigh of relief. He also explained that the stage inside was so small that there was literally no room to set up the candle stands that usually grace each wing of the stage. While on line I also retrieved a message on my cell phone from Roger the travelling super-fan (who had finally left the tour after the DC show on Thursday), relaying his personal envy for our current situation and his wishes to us for a good show. Before long we were let inside, and Rhonda and I made our usual dash for the stage, which was indeed about the tiniest I had ever seen. Chris bought us some beers and we settled in to wait for Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express to start their set while the hordes filed in behind us. By the time the music started the place was packed. Chris, who had arrived late for both Philadelphia shows, asked Rhonda and me if this was our usual location for Lucinda's shows. "Only place to be!" we replied smiling.
Prophet and his crew, as consistent a band as I've ever seen, started on time and gave their usual outstanding set. By this time Rhonda and I could practically sing along with all their songs, and Chris was extremely impressed with their show. We were quite surprised when, during their last number, Lucinda's drummer Jim Christie pulled the cover off his drum set and joined in pounding the skins behind Prophet's drummer Winston Watson, a big grin on his face. That was the first sign this was going to be an exceptionally loose show.
|I found this sticker on an equipment case amusing
|Jim Christie's Drum Kit
|I think the design is from Lu's tatoo
After about a 40 minute break between sets listening to The Clash, which by now we also knew by heart, the incense (but no candles) was lit. Soon after, Lu walked out with a big smile on her face and we knew we were in for a good night. The planned set list taped to the stage in front of us listed seven of her new songs, but by the end of the night we got nine! She explained about halfway into the set "Y'all got lucky tonight. This is our last stop on this tour and we're going home tomorrow, so we can play as long as we want!" Lu was relaxed and cheerful, the "Love Band" was again fondly introduced, there were hugs for Taras and Flappy the guitar tech, lots of smiles, lots of laughs, and one hell of a performance. Personally I thought it didn't quite match the pinnacle of Monday's incredible show in Philly, but it was pretty damn close! Lu's voice was strong and exquisitely motivated all night, and a highlight for me was when she performed an absolutely scorching version of Still I Long for Your Kiss (which before last night wasn't one of my favorites). We were treated to an achingly beautiful solo acoustic performance of Lu's new song Minneapolis (the only one of her new songs I hadn't yet heard) to open the first encore. To our delight, Chuck Prophet and some of his band members emerged to jam with Lu's band during "Joy", and there were so many people on stage at one point I had to put on a wide-angle lens to capture the action. Prophet also came out again later for the final encore to trade licks with Pettibone on Atonement and Come to Me Baby, and Lu gave another incredibly intense performance for Atonement, mentioning again that it was inspired by her negative experiences with organized religion while living in Nashville ("I'm about God, not about that"). The crowd was enthusiatically supportive throughout, and there was very little calling out for old material. Well enough of my jabbering, a picture's worth a thousand words so here's a nice collection of photos for all of you since the lighting was much better than in Philly:
And so concluded Lucinda's Summer 2002 tour. We all walked across the street and had a beer together after the show, and then said goodbye to Chris as he headed home to Philly. The next morning after breakfast at our hotel, Rhonda and I congratulated ourselves for seeing a truly outstanding group of concerts and parted ways with a final hug, knowing we most likely wouldn't meet again until next year. After another five-hour drive, this time with the Cowboy Junkies and a bootleg of Lucinda with the Car Wheels band for company, I was back home in Long Island.
I certainly have no regrets about the trip to Maryland to see the show, nor about any of the travel time and the 3000+ miles I put on my Saturn to follow Lucinda around the past two weeks. It was a wonderful experience to meet some of the people I've corresponded with about her music and to share the experience of seeing her perform with them (not to mention befriending Roger the travelling super-fan, a true believer if ever there was one!). I'm very grateful to Lu for once again putting herself though all the exhaustion and craziness of touring to share herself with us, and I consider myself privileged to have been able to hear her play her new songs before bringing them into the studio. Except for Minneapolis, I've heard them each enough times now that I can play them back pretty well in my head, a definite plus. The new CD is certainly something to look forward to, and I've been told that Lu will be starting out on tour again next February with Neil Young, which I know she's wanted to do for a very long time. Can't wait to see the two of them on stage together - it should be a great Spring!
The set list:
Out of Touch
Are You Down
Those Three Days (new)
Sweet Side (new)
Still I Long for Your Kiss
Changed the Locks
American Dream (new)
Get Right With God
Minneapolis (new, solo acoustic)
Something About What Happens When We Talk
Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings (new)
Fruits of my Labor (new)
Come to Me Baby