Dar Williams at City Winery: A Review

Dar Williams
Dar Williams - Many Great Companions
Download: “As Cool As I Am” – Dar Williams w/ Gary Louris (via Amazon.com)

Singer/songwriter Dar Williams is in the midst of a fall tour on the road promoting her eighth studio album, Many Great Companions which came out last week on Razor & Tie. Dar was at City Winery this past Long time fan Stacy

Dar Williams at City Winery
by Stacy Weidenmuller

I consider myself a pretty big Dar Williams fan. I’m not a crazy fanatic who follows her around from city to city, but when a new album comes out I like to see her on the supporting tour. This Saturday I caught up with Dar on the second night of her residency at City Winery supporting her latest release Many Great Companions. Her new album, which came out this past Tuesday is basically a best of double disc collection of songs spanning the last 20 years of her career. My great companion for the night was a girlfriend of mine who was unfamiliar with Dar’s music and who claims to be pretty particular when it comes to female singer songwriters. I was fairly confident that she would be leaving City Winery both a little drunk and as a new Dar Williams fan.

Opening the show was Brooklyn based folk singer, Toshi Reagon. Even though I wasn’t familiar with her music, I have never seen a bad opening act at a Dar Williams show, so I new I wouldn’t be disappointed. My friend, on the other hand, didn’t really know Dar’s music, but was elated when they introduced Toshi as she knew her from a Bob Dylan tribute concert a few years ago. Once I heard her sing I understood why my friend got so excited. Toshi is a talent to be reckoned with and her sense of humor and magnetic personality kept the audience highly enthralled and entertained. I will definitely be on the lookout for her upcoming performances or perhaps check out the series of birthday shows she will be playing at Joe’s Pub in January.

When Dar hit the stage, she was greeted with a warm and pleasant welcome. Most of her set was played with her two-piece band Ben Butler on electric guitar and Bryn Roberts on piano and keyboards. Her first song of the night was “Spring Street” which seemed appropriate, as the venue was located steps away from Spring St. This was followed by a story about the origin of the song and how she always wondered what they told them on those tour buses driving through Soho. She then briefly introduced her next song as sort of a life journey which was “The Easy Way”. By this time my friend leaned over to me and said “I love her voice!” Ah yes, a Dar fan in the making! For her third song she slowed things down with a beautifully arranged version of “The Beauty of the Rain”. Bryn’s piano playing and harmonies really shined on this one and also on Dar’s tear jerkingly gorgeous version of “If I Wrote You”.

Her song selections were a great mix of fast and slow, new and old. The sing a long songs for the night were “Cool as I am” and “Iowa”. Perhaps it was the nature of the venue but the audience participation just wasn’t there compared to other shows that I’ve seen.

The one cover song of the night was “Midnight Radio” from the show Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The song was preceded by a few words about the tragic loss of Tyler Clementi. Over all, I loved the show and if you’re not a fan or if you are one, I definitely recommend checking out Many Great Companions, which is an excellent introduction to Dar Williams and her body of work. Also check out a live show if you want to REALLY become a fan, just like my friend did.*

[*Ed Note: If you missed Dar at The City Winery, you can catch her on Boxing Day (Dec 26, 2010) at The Bell House in Brooklyn, NY.]

Dar Williams 2010 tour dates and Saturday night set list from the City Winery show after the jump.

Dar Williams at City Winery (10/16/10)
Spring Street
The Easy Way
The Beauty of the Rain
Teen for God
If I Wrote You
You Rise and Meet the Day
Are You Out There
Midnight Radio
It’s Allright
After All
Mercy of the Fallen
The Babysitter’s Here

Dar Williams 2010 Tour Dates
Oct 26 SPACE Evanston, IL
Oct 27 Barrymore Theatre Madison, WI
Oct 29 Residency @ Dowling Studio in Guthrie Theatre Minneapolis, MN
Oct 30 Residency @ Dowling Studio in Guthrie Theatre Minneapolis, MN
Nov 05 South Church Portsmouth, NH
Nov 06 Tupelo Music Hall White River Junction, VT
Nov 14 Residency @ Triple Door Seattle, WA
Nov 15 Residency @ Triple Door Seattle, WA
Nov 18 Humboldt Brews Arcata, CA
Nov 19 The Crystal Bay Club/ Crown Room Crystal Bay, NV
Nov 20 Livermore Performing Arts Center Livermore, CA
Nov 21 Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, California
Nov 22 Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, CA
Nov 30 Telfords Warehouse / Jazz Cafe Chester, Cheshire, UK
Dec 01 The Met Bury, Lancashire, UK
Dec 02 The Pleasance Theatre Edinburgh, UK
Dec 05 Union Chapel London, UK
Dec 06 The Glee Club Nottingham, UK
Dec 07 The Glee Club Birmingham, Midlands, UK
Dec 26 The Bell House Brooklyn, NY