Saturday, August 29, 2009


Anyone who goes to live shows knows that the level of live can be infinitely variable. I don't blame performers having difficulty trying to get it up for the umpteenth time for a tune they'd probably wished that they'd never written in the first place--even saintly Bruce Springsteen has to mutter "Born to Fucking Run" to himself on his dark days. Then there's that delightful moment in Wings of Desire, say, when, since we've got angel-super-power, we get to hear Nick Cave think "I'm not going to sing you a song about a girl" before he says "I'm going to sing you a song about a girl." Of course, that Cave and the Bad Seeds then totally rip into that gorgeous train crash of a tune "From Her to Eternity" sort of ruins my point. But that's in a movie. With angels.

So, for your enjoyment and study, are two performances by Lucinda Williams. Watch, then we'll discuss.

Shocking, no? The first one certainly hews closest to the recorded version--the guitar lines are almost note-for-note--but for a song that espouses "I just want to see you so bad" in 9 of its 21 lines, you have to feel either the want or the bad, preferably both, to give that want the proper frisson. She just seems to be singing, and that's when you realize it's the feeling that matters. Not to get too method acting on it, she doesn't seem to be considering she's singing the tune to anyone. It's not till the last "see you" that she devotes anything more to it, gives it that off-tune edge that makes the need all more needy--her voice can't even need straight. But that it's the last "see you" also might mean she's just happy to welcome the song's end.

Version two, on the other hand, well, at first it doesn't even quite look like her. The distance. The darker hair color. And I don't think it's just because it's shot from the crowd that it seems to have more of a vibe--a sort of contact energy. One key might be she seems to slur it--perhaps she's a bit buzzed this time? But that works, as if it opens her up to some honesty.

The guitar, too, isn't the clean lines from version 1, and that freedom, that surprise for fans who know the tune, makes the discovery a "see you" so good, as it were. Of course she's not playing guitar in this version, either, so perhaps she needs to focus, have only the vocal on her mind. But I'm at least buying the guy in performance two is going to be a lot happier to see her back.

(10 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Blogger ahab said...

Great post.

10:41 AM  

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