Lucinda Williams | photo by Megan Matuzak
Lucinda Williams plays an impassioned, inspiring set at XPNFest
The singer-songwriter vet closed the River Stage with a raw and heartfelt performance.
The sun was on Lucinda Williams’ side during her River stage set last night. It was beginning to set, splaying rays of gold, pink, and purple across the horizon as her band gently eased into the opening strains of “Steal Your Love.” Less a song than a piece of musical mesmerism, it eased the crowd onto the wavelength of this legendary songwriter and storyteller.
Williams has traveled this country many times over; you can hear it in her weathered voice and tales of tragic figures and lost loves. When she announced her band, it was by name and place of origin, like she’d visited each of their hometowns and picked them out herself.
It was drummer Butch Norton from San Francisco, bassist David Sutton from Tucson, guitarist Stuart Mathis from Alaska, and pedal steel player Doug Pettibone from Ventura. As a unit, they were untouchable, whether kicking up a rip-roaring dust cloud of blues on “Can’t Let Go” and “Honeybee” or summoning a gentler ambience for “Are You Down.”
As the sun dipped below the horizon Williams and her band launched into the haunting dirge “Pray The Devil Back To Hell,” from her 2020 album Good Souls Better Angels. Accompanied by a downright demonic fiddle, the witching hour mood she conjured was unbreakable.
Even though there were a few moments where this long-running road warrior stumbled — momentarily forgetting a few lyrics early on, or having to take a pause in the middle of “Pray the Devil” — Lucinda Williams is a consummate professional, and her love of performing is unmistakable. Not to mention, when you hold onto so many stories it’s a force of habit to forget them on occasion.
She told one about Blaze Foley, inspiration for the unimpeachable all-timer “Drunken Angel,” as an introduction to the song. He was a really good songwriter who liked to drink a lot. “He tried to keep up with Townes [Van Zandt], which of course no one could.”
At the beginning of the show, XPNFest veteran Wiliams imparted the crowd with some wisdom from her own life: “Don’t forget you need to keep supporting independent radio. Cause they’re the only ones who play me—and other artists who’re like me”
Listen to her performance and check out a photo gallery below.
- Steal Your Love
- Can't Let Go
- Drunken Angel
- West Memphis
- Are You Down
- Pray The Devil Back To Hell
- Stolen Moments
- You Can't Rule Me
- Rockin' In The Free World