High Country Acoustica
I've been looking forward to this for a while, and it was an absolute joy to see Willy Vlautin and the band performing live last night. They were outstanding.
In the process of attending I realised what a RF groupie I am: I grabbed an armchair right at the front [a chair with arms, not like a livingroom lounger; at my age I hate standing and either lean against walls at concerts, get a seat if very lucky, or stand with pained legs - ahhhh], and at the end nabbed the set list and then went over to shake Vlautin's hand and thank him for such a great gig. Why not?
The band played most of The High Country and that in itself was fascinating. When I reviewed the album I did express wonder if it would be possible to deliver its storytelling and atmospheric rather than distinctive melodies live. The speculation is over, and to these ears the live performance actually enhanced the song cycle's immediacy and impact: Amy Boone from The Damnations TX performed the female persona - as well as other musical contributions throughout - and her physical presence and clear delivery brought that narrative alive for me [opener to album and performance Inventory was beautiful]. Indeed, I felt I 'heard' the narratives much more clearly in this live set, and not just because I had listened to the album, although the melodies too are now beginning to assert their individualities. The band performed 14 of the album's 17 tracks and it was perfectly gauged and played. The band was tight, and instrumentals an absolute knock-out: Wlly Vlautin, vocals and guitars; Dave Harding, bass and vocals; Sean Oldham, drums and vocals; Dan Eccles, electric guitar and steel; Amy Boone, as I've said, joining on vocals and keyboards. Eccles was on fine form and he wow wows his guitar with a bodily empathy.
My other favourites from the set list and additionals were Post To Wire and Polaroid, the latter sublime. They also rocked with a few punchy numbers and it is easy to get lost in Vlautin's narratives and forget what a consummate band they are. This is the first time I have seen them live and I am still exploring the albums so it's a brilliant journey begun - I also have Vlautin's third novel Lean on Pete yet to read. Paul Who Knows His Richmond Fontaine was there, and having introduced me to Post To Wire he has now introduced me to Winnemucca. I have listened once and will no doubt review later - there are some powerful instrumentals in addition to the stories - and an early favourite is Northline which became the title of Vlautin's second novel, and I am grateful for Paul's contribution to this wonderful discovering.