of a kind: David Rawlings and Gillian Welch. Photo:
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
Egg, Nov. 11
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are the real deal.
They strode onto the almost bare stage of the Egg last week
as if to assume their place in a lost Nashville revue, and
performed hand-hewn blues, boot-tappin’ bluegrass, and country
waltzes that stem from some sepia-toned era.
But there they were in Technicolor: Welch in a short velvet
jacket and satin skirt above her black cowgirl boots, and
Rawlings in a suit (and a cowboy hat for the second act).
The duo launched directly into driven versions of two favorites
from the last two records: the surprisingly sunny “Wayside/Back
in Time” and the quirky “Elvis Presley Blues.”
never played in an Egg before,” Welch said, stating that they
didn’t expect the building to actually be an egg. “One of
the unusual properties of the Egg is that it’s very quiet,”
she continued. Part of the unearthly quiet was a rapt audience,
but also the room was sorrowfully half-full. But too bad for
anyone who missed it. The heartfelt honesty of their songs
and the small crowd lent the performance a real intimacy.
Though many of the songs on their newest album, Soul Journey,
are with a full band, the arrangements they took on the road
left little to be desired.
Welch’s forlorn voice was in fine form, tinged with trademark
ache and soft sweetness, particularly when she sang the sparse,
traditional “I Had a Real Good Mother & Father” alone.
It’s hard to believe she’s superstitious about having vocal
training: Her voice is so natural and unaffected that it couldn’t
possibly be contrived.
Welch and Rawlings played with their heads down and brows
furrowed, listening well to each other and at ease in the
spotlight, as though they were rocking their living room and
we just happened to be there.
Welch switched from guitar to banjo for several songs, and
they both played harmonica in the course of diligently plowing
through highlights from the last several albums, including
“I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll” and a spectacular version
of the mournful, bluesy “My Morphine.” The latter, Welch professed,
is the slowest yodel as tested by “extensive comparative research.”
The song “solidified my place in the slowcore movement,” she
The closer of the first set was a blazing version of “Red
Clay Halo,” during which Rawlings pulled out every stop. And
during “Revelator,” Rawlings absolutely killed with minor
dissonance and passion. In “Look at Miss Ohio,” his solo replicated
Welch’s cadence and her every intonation. With Welch, his
singing fits hers, creating harmonies that unfurl like silk
from a spool. But when he was left alone to sing Dylan’s “Copper
Kettle,” he quaked and seemed to struggle.
An early Greek philosopher thought that bodies were parts
of the same whole—Gillian Welch and David Rawlings may well
be the best evidence of this theory I’ve ever witnessed. They
always know where the other is going.
After playing so many songs in a minor key, most people would
stop. But nothing kept Welch and Rawlings from rock-a-bye-ing
us with a bevy of fun covers. They encored after a standing
ovation with note-perfect versions of Gram Parsons’ “Hickory
Wind,” Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner,” and “I’ll
Fly Away,” one of Welch’s contributions to the cash-cow soundtrack
for O Brother Where Art Thou. But when someone behind
me yelled “Freebird,” Rawlings thankfully lamented, “I thought
that would go away in my lifetime.”
Cradle of Filth, Moonspell
Winners, Nov. 13
England’s Cradle of Filth are the Grand Guignol of heavy metal,
and the stage show they unveiled at Saratoga Winners last
Thursday pushed them further beyond the Alice Cooper and Marilyn
Manson comparisons they’ve been tagged with for too many years.
For one thing, Cradle are a band, and the show augments the
music rather than catering to a cult of personality (and makes
Manson’s sicko shtick look positively pubescent in the process).
Taking the stage in black garb that resembled a cross between
goth wear and medieval armory (complete with breast plates),
the symphonic quintet turned the Cohoes roadhouse into the
Theater of the Black Metal, employing sensational programming,
pulverizing rhythms from a monolithic drum kit, and a zaftig
lyric soprano to churn their sonic dramas to a hallucinatory
pitch. That the uninitiated couldn’t make out a single lyric
only added to the maelstroms of towering—and undoubtedly unwholesome—emotions.
Vocalist Dani Davey’s impish yelp created a laughable effect
at first, but a song or two in, it became pleasurably eerie,
a top note to his devilkin death roar, which is one of the
most sulphurous in metaldom. When the tumultuously sweeping
melodies soared into the nether regions, the soprano took
over, giving the music a genuine thrust of operatic intensity.
The show’s concept, based on their recent Damnation and
a Day release (sans the recording’s 50-piece orchestra)
was encapsulated by Davey’s observation that there is only
one way to come into this world, but many ways to go out.
The songs, which flowed from one to the other like turning
pages in the Book of the Damned, invoked cycles of birth and
death, renewal and decay, mostly through alternating symphonic
crescendos with shattering hardcore choruses. It was to the
band’s inventive credit that they did not stoop to Satanic
imagery, instead cleaving to pure gothicism to drive the mosh
pit into a frenzy.
Cradle’s visuals never overwhelmed the overall experience,
not even when a woman trapeze artist shimmied up a rope for
some aerial acrobatics. The best effect were the two gargoyles
(in Hollywood-quality costumes) who lurked in the rafters,
engaged in some pagan rite of their own until the grand finale,
when they pulled out a couple of machine guns and sprayed
the airspace with showers of sparks. This flawlessly conducted
set, which used German theater composer Carl Orff rather than
Richard Wagner for a template, was wildly creative right down
to the lurid blue-and-violet stage lighting, and, in a word,
Although Moonspell hail from Portugal, they are considered
to be important contributors to the Scandinavian black-metal
oeuvre, and their atmospheric opening set ably proved why.
Drawing mostly from The Antidote, their majestic seventh
release, the hulking quartet and their guest programmer spun
a hypnotic web of brutal yet beautiful compositions, in which
lyrics of haunting poetry occasionally escaped from vocalist
Fernando Ribeiro’s gravelly basso profundo. The mesmerizing
“Under Lowering Skies” was propelled by a Mediterranean dance
rhythm, opening a whole new vista in the genre’s ever-expanding
Belle and Sebastian, Rasputina
Theatre, Northampton, Mass., Nov. 12
Life is full of surprises. Like a box of chocolates or a federal
election, you really never know what you’re gonna get. At
nearly every turn during last Wednesday’s show at the Calvin
Theatre, I was caught off-guard, from the abundance of Albanians
to the $5 plastic cups of chilled merlot. But the quality
of the performances really piqued my interest. Scotland’s
ambassadors of sulk, Belle and Sebastian, delivered an engaging
100-minute set that, time and again, had me wondering, “Where
did that come from?”
By all accounts, past Belle tours have been poorly rehearsed,
ramshackle affairs, filled with false starts and missed cues.
In fairness, there was one false start this time out, but
otherwise the band sounded rehearsed and confident. The intricate
arrangements were carried off expertly, often sounding almost
exactly like the original recordings, which is no small feat
considering the amount of players involved (they’ve taken
the form of a seven-piece band with five-piece string section
for this tour).
Special mention should be made of guitarist (and sometimes
vocalist) Stevie Jackson and his counterpart, Bob Kildea,
who traded some surprisingly fiery leads on the Brit-poppy
“Stay Loose” and Tigermilk’s “You’re Just a Baby.”
The group nailed some of the trickier tempos and stylistic
shifts within songs like “Step Into My Office, Baby” (from
this year’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress) and “You Made
Me Forget My Dreams,” one of several A-side-worthy B-sides
represented. Several band members showed their multi-instrumental
prowess by switching up between songs, especially Mick Cooke,
who followed up a wonderful muted trumpet solo on “Like Dylan
in the Movies” (sadly, one of the few offerings from the excellent
If You’re Feeling Sinister LP) by taking a turn at
the French horn, then conducting the string section through
a dramatic ritard.
Another kicker is that this show was genuinely fun. For a
guy that terminally sounds as if his dog just died, lead moper
Stuart Murdoch seemed to be having a blast, and displayed
a sense of humor that is practically undetectable on record.
For the bouncy “You Don’t Send Me,” he invited a handful of
girls from the audience onstage to dance along, then joined
in with them on “Women’s Realm” (wisely, the only selection
from the mediocre Fold Your Hands Child, You Look Like
a Peasant). I never really thought of Belle and Sebastian
as a dance band, but by the time they got around to “Sleep
the Clock Around” to close out the evening, the theater was
a sea of smiling faces and shaking indie-rock booties.
Rasputina opened the show with a surprisingly rocking set,
considering their lineup. Armed with two cellos, a drummer
and Melora Creagher’s elastic voice, they cranked out a short
set of songs from their latest LP, Cabin Fever, and
shredding covers of “Bad Moon Rising” and “Barracuda.”