Some experiences should not be over-thought.
They need to be left alone to be what they were and remain in memory forever.
So this isn’t a review. It’s just a note. Something to mark the fact that I was there at a performance that I will not soon forget.
Bonnie Prince Billy – Will Oldham – has been described by one reviewer as your mad uncle. He’s an enigmatic bundle of seriousness, beautiful melodies, dark lyrics and a physical stage presence which my companion for the evening called ‘mesmerising’. It certainly is that.
The music itself is beautiful. The lyrical darkness and complexity is overlaid with disarmingly lovely melodies carried in three-part harmonies that filled the Concert Hall and held us in thrall.
Oldham was supported by the Cairo Gang comprising Van Campbell on drums, Emmett Kelly on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals, and the glorious Angel Olsen on vocals. Kelly’s light, yet beautiful voice was a delicate compliment to the clarity and power of Oldham and the resonance of Olsen. The three of them blended superbly. Olsen was also something of a revelation: when backing, she chooses forms and directions not unlike Emmylou Harris, but when on her own, I heard traces of Kelly Willis‘ depth and even a touch of her lilt and twang. She’s wonderful.
The three of them also managed to carry off a finale which stunned us all – Oldham laid down a challenge to the acoustics of the Concert Hall. Stepping away from the mikes and out of the lights, with only Kelly on guitar, the three of them sang the traditional “I Never Thought My Love Would Leave Me”. I’ve been critical of the Concert Hall’s acoustics before, but on this occasion, I can honestly say it felt like the Hall was holding their voices in the palms of its hands.
I can’t add anything more.
To understand the beauty (and the stage presence) of Bonnie Prince Billy – this YouTube clip of “With Cornstalks or Among Them/The Sounds Are Always Begging” is a great start:
I think this review captures the entire experience as well as providing a set list which will allow you to explore on your own:
And here’s the MySpace page: