The Lone Bellow – The Bowery Ballroom – February 5, 2013
Remember how Bon Iver’s heartbreak record, For Emma, Forever Ago, became part of indie-rock lore, straight from a Wisconsin cabin into an awkward Grammy speech? Zach Williams, lead singer of the Lone Bellow, may give Justin Vernon a run for his money with his own self-titled album. Williams was encouraged by a friend to write when his wife suffered a near-paralyzing fall from a horse. And early journal entries became the foundation for songs that grace his album. Williams has said of his work, “We write songs from personal experiences in our lives. Tragedy, hope, betrayal and redemption ebb and flow throughout this record.” He and his band even went up to a cabin in upstate New York to film a video for “Two Sides of Lonely.”
With mandolinist Kanene Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist, the Lone Bellow created a robust hug of harmonies around the audience of The Bowery Ballroom on a chilly Tuesday evening. The band sauntered onstage to the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzy,” and the audience joined in with uproarious cheers and applause as they began their set with “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” Williams offered “another sad country” as an introduction to “Two Sides of Lonely,” in which one onlooker yelled, “Make me cry!” A cadence of hand claps erupted for the rollicking favorite, “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” In a playful interlude, Williams and Co. covered Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and bits of Brian McKnight’s “Back to One.” Returning to a country croon, the Bellows continued with “Bleeding Out” and a steel-pedal accompanied “Looking for You.” Williams proposed a new song, with opening chords similar to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” which (you guessed it) they played. It seems as though the Lone Bellow has quite the repertoire of ’90s R&B tunes.
As the end of the night neared, “Teach Me to Know” closed the set with the group’s fans singing along. For an encore, the Lone Bellows covered John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” before finishing with “The One You Should’ve Let Go,” and The Bowery Ballroom was transformed into the set of Nashville, with feet stomping and the crowd chanting: “Come on, my love / I’m not the one that you were looking for / I’m not the shoulder you should cry on / I am the one you should’ve let go.” But despite those lyrics, the Lone Bellow won’t be let go anytime soon. —Sharlene Chiu