Lucinda Williams’ hips don’t lie. Taking the stage at TD Arena on Wednesday night, Williams came out with her hips swaying, and they didn’t stop all night. Starting off the evening with “Can’t Let Go,” Williams let the audience know she was there for a good time. And the crowd was ready, showing their appreciation with random yells and standing up and cheering after their fave songs. One lady even took over the aisle and broke out in a boogie.
In between songs, Williams told the stories behind the tunes, many of which dealt with the death of her friends. But somehow she was able to keep the mood light, even fun, despite the heavy subject matter. At one point the crowd broke out in laughter, causing Williams to chuckle while saying that death wasn’t funny. It got to the point that Williams even promised there would be no more songs about death, but it was definitely a prominent theme in her writing. Her set list also kept the mood light, going from fast songs to slow ones. “Cold Day in July” rolled nicely into the rocking “Too Cool to Be Forgotten,” while the strong female anthem “The Night’s Too Long” paired nicely with “Lake Charles” about an ex-partner of Williams who died too young. Halfway through the 90-minute concert, Williams remained on the stage with her guitarist Stuart Mathis (formerly of The Wallflowers), while drummer Butch Norton and bassist David Norton took a break. This is where she really shined, highlighting her voice and songwriting.
Throughout the rest of her performance, Williams and her band would take at least 30 seconds of every song for a musical interlude that was heavy on the guitar and drums. And even though the band was talented — they had the musical chops for these riffs every time — it just became a bit much.
Our one gripe with the concert was the venue. Again, TD Arena left much to be desired. The sound was off — so badly that Williams had to stop during the first couple of bars of her first song to adjust not only her guitar but the amp volume of everyone else. And we understand that it is a concert, but the seating in the arena made it distracting with people coming and going to get drinks or go to the bathroom.
We’re going out on a limb here, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Charleston Music Hall, Spoleto Festival USA, and Piccolo Spoleto could work something out next year to accommodate some of the more rocking shows of Spoleto? Or even, and we know this a little crazy, having an evening out at Awendaw Green for the bluesy rockers that are becoming mainstays of the fest. It’s unfortunate that the setting of the show can diminish the experience, but that’s what happened with Williams at TD.