Date: Mon, 16 Mar 1998 15:16:34 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: "Douglas Aldridge" <email@example.com> (http://www.bertha.net) Subject: A long-winded review of Bill at Roaring Brook
I'm just now sitting down to report on Bill's show at the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton, CT. I suppose some background is in order for those that have never been to the Nature Center. (BTW, the straight set list is at the bottom for those with limited time and/or patience.)
The Nature Center is where I first saw Bill in 1990, after my father heard Handsome Molly on WWUH (local college radio.) The Nature Center is literally in the middle of nowhere, and is in fact just a small room that normally hosts the snake exhibits. The snakes remain during the concerts, although their cages are covered (a practice begun in 1990 when one snake got particularly excited during a Dave Van Ronk show, causing the audience to snicker and Dave to respond "What's the matter, you've never seen an agent before?") The room seats approximately 100 people in folding chairs, which provides a very intimate feel. The best thing is that Roaring Brook attracts acts of a magnitude inversely proportionate to its size. Besides our beloved Bill, Roaring Brook has hosted shows by Greg Brown, John Gorka, Patty Larkin, Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin' Jack Elliott (who's coming back in May!), and many more.
Saturday was my third Bill show at Roaring Brook, my first since the unfortunate debacle at the Brattle (of which I will speak no more.) Fortunately, Bill was in fine form. The falling snow visible through the back window provided a perfect backdrop for the show.
Bill took the stage around 7:30 and jumped right into "Birches." I'll refrain from commenting too much on the quality of the songs, since they were all executed nearly flawlessly. Following some commentary on the location ("It wouldn't be Roaring Brook without snow") and a quick impression of Bob Dylan at Summer Camp he played a very nice "Girl From the North Country" followed by "Letter From Heaven." Still stuck on the snow theme, he raised the point that baseball season was just around the corner which caused him to poll the crowd on their baseball loyalty -- Yankees or Red Sox (response was approximately 50/50.) After toying with the idea of the crowd duking it out (Bill imagined the headline in the Folk Times: "Morrissey Incites Riot In Canton") he improvised a few bars of "Snowing In Canton" before jumping into "Different Currency." The next song was an audience choice -- one voice called for "Cold Fingers," to which several people responded "No!", the first time I've ever heard *that* happen. Bill claimed to have shelved that one for a while but agreed to play it anyway. He made some comments about the infamous "dog verse" (something about the dog being a fictionalized version of his own dog) that made me think he should prelude the song with a disclaimer that "No dogs were harmed in the writing of this song." Anyway, he did have to solicit a line from the audience, the only lyrical flub I noticed all night. Next up was Party At the U.N., one of my all-time favorites for its ingenious rhymes. He began to intro Off-White with some discussion of weddings, which prompted more Red Sox vs. Yankees commentary -- Bill claimed that Ellen did not attend Roaring Brook shows because she couldn't stand Yankee fans, and then admitted that she actually didn't like the snakes. After Off-White he did a very quick reading from Edson that had to have been completely baffling for anyone who hadn't read the book. Some commentary on the Grammies was followed by "She's That Kind Of Mystery." The best humor of the evening came next with Bill's "Shakespeare Texas-style" impressions and the always funny bait-fisherman vs. fly-fisherman stuff ("I know lots of people think fly fisherman are snobs and bait fisherman sleep with their sisters, but even though it's true I'm not going to say it.") Of course that brought about "Ice Fishing," which I had not heard since my first show in 1990 and was therefore the peak of the evening for me. Robert Johnson and Summer Night finished up the set nicely. When Bill returned for the encore someone cheekily called for "Proud Mary," and Bill obliged with a quick verse before introducing what I think was going to be "Grizzly Bear." Before he could start someone called for "Handsome Molly." Bill acted surprised that he'd forgotten that song and proceeded to play it instead (no complaints here) before leaving the stage.
I'm glad to report that the whole show was excellent. Despite the fact that it was my 8th or 9th show, I'm still enjoying them as much as ever and I have no plans to stop. New Englanders should note that Bill will be headlining the Hartland Family Folk Festival in July of this year. It's always a great time, with a family or without.