Friday, November 20, 2009

J. Tillman in the Side Chapel at First Unitarian Church

It was a family affair Wednesday when J Tillman, his brother Zach and a trio of equally ripe musicians held court in the teeny tiny chapel at First Unitarian Church. Zach warmed the small but packed room with his brand of crisp conversational songwriting. A folkie who isn't afraid of dabbling in the some Morricone like soundscapes. Playing his guitar solo Zach's short set help both tender and slightly more raucous moments. It set a very relaxed vibe perfect for the lush set J had on deck.

 J is touring to support Year In The Kingdom a beautiful but solemn album of honest observations. A live rendition of the album would have suited me just fine. The cozy venue, early dusk and intense preceding days left me wanting to just sit and enjoy fantastic music. The moment J's breathtaking pure raw voice began though I knew it was going to be far more nourishing show.

To start the set he kept to the path laid out by YITK except when played live by five folks (as opposed to the solo process Tillman used while recording of doing everything himself) the music is much richer and more dynamic. The high carved wooden walls shaped deep tones that Tillman's voice smoothly threaded through. Broken only by a few moments of witty not-suitable-for-church banter the full hour and 25 minute set was intentionally crafted to build as Tillman and his crew pushed the borders of the songs becoming more and more lively.

Deep into the set the reserved nature Tillman et al. had begun with has been abandoned for a more classic rock energy. Never once challenging the skill of the other players this septet played so well together it left me free to watch the how they all fit in instead of being distracted by a solo riff. Tillman led his crew into quite the frenzy at one point kneeling on the ground and letting himself really feel the more vigorous jam and building up a pace that gave new breath to the recorded versions. Tossed in for good measure and  was a nice bit of hand clapping and key chain percussion. The music brought me to the edge of my seat more than once during the concert and truly took my breath away with a sparse rendition of Though I Have Wronged you to finish things.

I can safely say this is a show you should really really get yourself to if at all feasible although the perfect alignment of time, company and location will make this a difficult experience to replicate.

Though I Have Wronged You

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