In case there was any doubt left, Lucinda Williams is now a rocker. Sure, she has built her considerable reputation as an alt-country pioneer and she did deliver the George-Jones-and-Tammy-Wynette styled country charmer “Jailhouse Tears” at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. But the rest of her nearly two-hour concert was all about rock in its various forms.
From the opening Southern-fried current single “Real Love” to the final encore cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” (yes, you read that right), Williams was in fine form, backed by Buick 6, featuring the great guitarist Doug Pettibone. The mix for the evening was slightly off, with Williams’ vocals a little too loud. Depending on the artist, that issue could be anywhere from mildly annoying to completely catastrophic, but in this case, it worked to her advantage.
The little boost helped Williams’ vocals, which were as gorgeous and affecting as usual, stand up to their rockier environments, as Pettibone’s fiery guitar solos uncoiled in song after song. Whether it was the stunning “Little Rock Star,” a Phil Spector-inspired throwback that serves as one of the many highlights of her upcoming “Little Honey” album, to the Paul Westerberg-inspired “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings,” Williams was charting new territory for herself and for female rockers.
The bash-it-out “Honey Bee,” the covers of Fats Domino’s “I Live My Life” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” the raucous version of “Changed the Locks” – they all showed why Williams is heading towards another landmark in her already-impressive career.
SETLIST: Real Love / Steal Your Love / Tears of Joy / People Talking / Jailhouse Tears / Car Wheels on a Gravel Road / Drunken Angel / Out of Touch / Little Rock Star / Essence / Come On / Changed the Locks / Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings / Honey Bee / Joy / Righteously // ENCORES: I Live My Life / For What It’s Worth / It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)