For Dar Williams, Fourth Time is (Another) Charm at Landmark

Dar Williams 2014 - Photo by S. SandickSaturday, January 22nd, marked Dar Williams’ fourth performance at Landmark on Main Street. I’ve had the good fortune of reviewing most, if not all, of those previous concerts, and like those, this one highlighted the intelligence, creativity, and, yes, wackiness, of the wonderful Williams.

Dar Williams is clearly filled with many passions and interests, which she shared with the rapt audience in between songs. She spoke, for example, about things as varied as a Hudson Valley restoration project, the infamous Stanley Milgam experiment, Greek mythology, and the importance of hippies. You know that old question “if you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” Dar Williams is very high up on my list (along with Dr. Seuss and Henry VIII).

Williams was accompanied by piano and keyboard player, Bryn Roberts, who played both Landmark’s beautiful Steinway and a keyboard set on top of it – sometimes simultaneously. The addition of Roberts added fullness to Williams’ acoustic guitar, plus Roberts sang backup – a nice touch.

She began with a song from her 2012 CD, In The Time of Gods – “The Light and Me.” – and over the course of the evening would play several more from this CD, including “I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything,” “Crystal Creek,” “I Will Free Myself,” and “Storm King.”  Williams also talked about the fact that she was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of The Honesty Room, her breakout CD, and performed several songs from it, including a wonderful rendition of “The Babysitter’s Here.”

Standouts from Williams’ set included an energetic performance of “Buzzer,” a song based on the Stanley Milgrim experiment where study participants were asked by an authority figure to do something against their conscience (give someone an electric shock by pressing a buzzer). I can think of no other songwriter besides Dar Williams who would even consider writing a song on such a topic. This is what makes Williams so special. Other highlights were a rousing version of “Mercy of the Fallen,” and a lovely rendition of “The Beauty of the Rain,” from the CD of the same name. Roberts’ keyboard embellishments were particularly excellent, and he managed to get a wonderful Hammond B3 organ sound that was so realistic, I could see it onstage when I closed my eyes.

Williams closed her performance with “Storm King,” written for the great Pete Seeger. (Sadly, Seeger, who inspired Williams and a legion of other folk singers, passed away early this morning. Williams’ song will remain a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man).  For her encore, Williams returned to the stage to do a solo guitar version of “When I Was a Boy,” bringing tears to many in the audience.

The sold-out show was part of the Fabulous Folk series at Landmark on Main Street.

Read review of Dar Williams 2010 performance, “Dar Williams Brings Smart Songwriting to Landmark.”