Last Friday’s performance by David Lindley at the Van Dyck was rich with the ephemeral architecture of music. One man, one stringed instrument, and every song he played created a palpable structure that dissipated in an instant at each number’s conclusion. In particular, Lindley’s Weissenborn lap steel has such a deeply resonant low end that it was as if the chordal structures became a building he built inside of the actual building where we sat. This seemed so normal, but it’s not; it’s wild and rare.
At 70 years old, Lindley would appear to be doing pretty much what he has been doing as a solo artist for the past several decades. However, any immersion in his performance reveals there to be subtleties, honed sensibilities, and altered priorities coursing through the entirety of the set.
Lindley’s utilization of a variety of stringed instruments from other parts of the globe has always found him bending their tonal possibilities to his own will. Eschewing museum-rigid traditions and nationalistic limitations, he hops across borders denying neither the inherent beauty found in these travels or the specifics of his own interests and tastes. As he said about the Turkish oud he played, “What’s amazing about a lot of Middle Eastern instruments is you can play Appalachian music on them and it sounds fine.”
The change that has been gradual but unmistakable in his performances is an acknowledgement of the inescapable reality of our mortality. The heart of the set was “The Indifference of Heaven” by Warren Zevon. Lindley has been playing this song for some time, and he brings to it something deeper than its composer ever did. Having now lived longer than many of his friends—including Zevon—there’s powerful depth to his delivery of lines like “Nothing left but the sound of the front door closing forever.”