Dar Williams

At last night’s concert Dar Williams sang but one song from her latest album. It was about going to Berkeley in the ’80s, “looking for the ’70s.” I think a lot of the audience, like me, was primed for the nostalgia she evoked. Peace, love, possibilities, a better world. Despite putting out seven albums this century, her playlist came almost exclusively from the ’90s, which was fine as it included perhaps my two all-time favorites: “The Christians and the Pagans” and “The Babysitter’s Here.” I was initially shocked by her troll-like appearance, a small figure on a big stage with only a keyboard accompanist, but she filled Marjorie Luke Theatre with her masterful guitar playing and clear, ethereal voice. She must have told her stories a zillion times, but her patter between numbers was disarming, as much a part of the Dar Williams experience as the songs. I couldn’t have asked for more.
But “more” I got, in the persons of the Amy Ray Band. If Dar is folk rock, Amy is country rock, reflecting her Georgia roots. I didn’t know any of her songs, but they were all melodic, mostly rocking and easy to follow. It took courage, or generosity, for Dar Williams, basically a solo act, to cede the opening gig to a seven-person band that played, as Dar did, for a full hour. They performed their encores together, which made Dar look even smaller, but left a final good-feeling community vibe in the evening air.
(Who produced this show?  There was no name on the program and almost no advertising. And during intermission between the acts, the Amy Ray bandmembers including Indigo Girl Amy, all had to come back on stage to dismantle the wiring and collect their sound system. The whole thing seemed more appropriate to a junior high auditorium, which this was, than a professional theater.)

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