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Lucinda Williams Rises to the Challenge at the Beacon Theatre

November 18th, 2014

Lucinda Williams – Beacon Theatre – November 17, 2014

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Lucinda Williams celebrated her new LP, Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, with a spirited performance at the Beacon Theatre last night. For many artists, creating a double album of almost completely new and original music might be a bit daunting, but Williams’ musical output in recent years has been ambitious and inspired, and perhaps this is the new normal for her—the fans would certainly not complain.

With her leather jacket and confident, wide-legged stance, Williams commanded the stage, as usual, combining new songs—like “Protection,” the moody “Burning Bridges” and the bluesy “Something Wicked This Way Comes”—with material from back in the ’80s (“Side of the Road”), the ’90s (“Pineola,” “Lake Charles,”) and of course, a great deal from her prolific songwriting period during the Aughts. With a natural ability to give a strong sense of atmosphere with just a few well-chosen details, she’s always been an excellent storyteller. But during last night’s show, Williams prefaced another new song, “Compassion,” by saying it was especially challenging to write. It was the first time she attempted to put one of the poems by Miller Williams, her father, to music. She spoke about his insistence that songs and poems are “two different animals.”

Yet Williams rose to the challenge, and the resulting song was something of a departure from much of her lively, roots-y material, a stark, melancholic piece of music that seemed to wrap itself around the lines of the poem, allowing the rhythm of the words to inform the melody. The result was both arresting and refreshing, an interesting look at an artist seeking to keep exploring and challenging herself, while continuing to make and perform the music that has always spoken to her. —Alena Kastin | twitter.com/alenak