December 13, 2011. Boston, MA – I finally got to see and hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on their last concert of the tour. This was previously scheduled for Oct. 27 but got rescheduled due to a bout of laryngitis. It was certainly worth the wait, and as Gillian said during the concert, “It gave us a chance to fix a few things…” including a crack in her guitar (Gibson J-50, which you can see in the Fall 2011 issue of Fretboard Journal with Welch on the cover, showing the guitar with tape on it.) and a banjo repair. They seemed very relaxed and Rawlings family had come in from RI and were sitting right in front of us, adding to the familiarity. They are pretty funny in the banter dept. too.
The pair were in fine form on this second night of two at the Wilbur Theatre, which is a great venue for them. We were in the mezzanine about 5 rows up and the sound and sight-lines were excellent. This was a “standing room on the floor” gig, which I think is a stupid way to enjoy a concert, but whatever…we had seats. Much better than the House of Blues when we saw Dave Rawlings Machine with Old Crow Medicine show and others, where the seats are too far back and the crowd was too noisy during the Rawlings/Welch set.
The stage setting is very sparse, with only mikes on stage for the 2 guitars and 2 vocalists – no plugging in here, and they have the luxury of getting the sound just right with the microphones. The other notable stage prop is “The Box” which sits between them and contains everything they might need on stage, from strings to picks to harmonicas. The other noteworthy item was they had to stand on a rubber mat so they wouldn’t get shocked by the microphones!
The music itself is just what I expected, and more. Welch typically will crouch down away from the mics and start getting into the right groove before beginning the song. It was a real lesson in focus and intimacy. While Welch holds down the rhythm, Rawlings weaves his magic in and around the vocals. Their voices blend so well, it is sometimes hard to tell who is singing without looking at them. They started with Scarlett Town, off of the new album, “The Harrow and the Harvest”. This gives plenty of room for both of them and got us ready for what was to come.
Highlights for me were Scarlett Town (a great song, strong start), Make Me a Palette, 6 White Horses (with the dance – “I usually do this in private only…”), I Hear Them Alland the encores were just perfect, I’ll Fly Away with the audience singing along and ending with White Rabbit. I think they worked in all of the tunes from the new album and they sound like timeless classics, well-integrated with the older songs.
Gillian posted the handwritten set list to her twitter feed (@gillianwelch, but not much tweeting there). The concert started at 8:20 (I think they were late getting dinner at Legal!). The first set ended at 9:10. After a 20 min break, the second set was from 9:30-10:15 with the encores extending the show to 10:50.
Here it is in text form…and more accurate, in my opinion.
- Scarlett Town
- Make me a Pallete on the floor – ref. Doc Watson
- Rock of ages
- The Way It Will Be
- I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll
- That’s the Way it Goes
- Silver Dagger
- Red Clay
- Hard Times
- Down Along The Dixie Line
- Elvis Presley Blues
- Ms Ohio – ‘she wants to do right, but not right now’ << classic line.
- 6 White Horses – with G doin a dance and Dave on banjo
- I Hear Them All/This Land medley – led by Dave
- My Wrecking Ball
- Caleb Meyer
- I’ll Fly Away – audience sing-a-long!
- Time the Revelator
- The Way the Whole Thing Ends
- White Rabbit – turn up the reverb!
Other reviews worth reading: Jambands (includes good pic).
Now, go buy the new album so they’ll make another one before 8 years passes by.
Your intrepid concert-goer,