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Lucinda Williams Takes No Prisoners

July 21st, 2011

Lucinda Williams – The Wellmont Theatre – July 20, 2011

(Photo: Getty Images)

Last night after a rousing performance by singer-songwriter Amos Lee, whose smooth, soulful voice resonated within the expansive Wellmont Theatre, Lucinda Williams began her set with some upbeat numbers from 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her band getting right into the groove. Williams seemed to be feeling pretty good, swaying as she listened to the twang of the guitar and driving drum beat.

After rocking for a few more songs, Williams introduced the song “Copenhagen,” acknowledging that it was written to address her shock and sadness at the death of her longtime manager, who passed away when she was touring in Denmark. Befitting our New Jersey setting, Williams also took a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band before beginning to sing the song’s earnest and poignant lyrics, adorned with a beautiful solo from guitarist Blake Mills. As the song rang through the venue, the large space began to feel charged, heavy with the sentiments of the tune—a reflective moment not just for those onstage, but perhaps for many in the audience as well. Williams followed the song with a duet with Lee, the sweet and nostalgic “Little Angel, Little Brother,” afterward joking, “We’re gonna make y’all cry, then we’re gonna take y’all up.”

Indeed, the sad songs kept coming, with renditions of “Fruits of My Labor,” “Born to Be Loved” and “Unsuffer Me,” the last of which showed Williams at her most raw, her palms outstretched toward the sky as she sang, as if providing an offering. Of course, true to her word, Williams did take us up again and ended the show with versions of “Honeybee,” “Joy” and “Changed the Locks,” songs that all perfectly depict her signature swagger and take-no-prisoners attitude. By the night’s end, the only constant among the full range of subjects and styles within the music was that incredible voice of hers. Whether upbeat or weighty, Williams always manages to powerfully convey the range of emotions within her music. —Alena Kastin

(Lucinda Williams and Amos Lee play the Beacon Theatre tonight.)