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Wednesday, August 8

Review: Gillian Welch - The Wilama Theater - Missoual, MT - 7/31/2012

Gillian Welch Owns The Wilma
It's a Tuesday in July, the 31st to be exact, and the music loving town of Missoula, MT has seemed to be on edge for its next big show.  Missoula is spoiled with great music and compared to the usually stacked lineup of shows; this Summer had been coming up somewhat lacking.  We needed something to bring our spirits up, gather all the friends you know and of course have a good reason to just party in the middle of the week. It came in the form of a throwback show of pure Appalachian Bluegrass proportions with the acoustic Americana that is Gillian Welch, and nonetheless at the equally timeless Wilma Theater.  The first point needed made is that Gillian Welch is only as good as Dave Rawlings, her musical partner, vice-verse.  The namesake of the duo, their traveling moniker, might belong to Gillian but in this dance it definitely takes two to tango.  I walked away more than impressed; Gillian’s one of kind songwriting and deep vocals, Dave Rawling’s charisma and acoustic guitar skills, and of course the energy of the fans all made up the parts to an evening to get down to a mellow acoustic show, leaving me and seemingly most everyone else appreciating the musical experience as a whole.

The show opened with both Gillian and Dave walking to their microphones under colored house lights -tuning their guitars starting off the evening with acoustic bliss they set the mood for a night to remember.  Song four of the first set “I Want To Sing That Rock N Roll” connected and got the crowd was fully engaged as Gillian reminded everyone that Missoula was the only repeat town on this year’s tour from last year’s tour, acknowledging the appreciation she has for the love that Missoula has for them. Gillian throughout the concert showed that she has not only a great musical mind but a great mind all around and a thought process that creates traditional music that will no doubt go on forever. The first set also contained very rare songs such as “Dusty Boxcar Walls”, the traditional cover made famous by Mississippi John Hurt: “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor” which they dedicated to Doc Watson and a song that has become one of my favorites “Wayside/Back In Time”.  Along with Dave Rawlings jamming in acoustic raw form throughout every song, matching her vocals in collaborative harmonies each and every song brought a spiritual edge that was layered over the crowd bringing everyone together in celebration. 
An unexpected set break came next allowing the crowd to regroup (beer break) and get ready for some more music in its ultimate form. The start of the second set saw a trio of classics to kick it off with “Hard Times” playing right into “Elvis Presley Blues”  and finishing off with the all time favorite “Miss Ohio”. A three song run I did not expect and from the energy of the crowd it’s safe to say they didn’t expect it either.  The second set saw more energy than the first with Gillian creating layers of rhythm with knee slapping drums and some toe tapping percussion. Dave Rawlings showed his versatility playing the harp and with more unreal guitar leads moving as fast as I’ve seen up and down the stem of his guitar culminating with a cover of the classic “This Land Is Your land” by Woody Guthrie.  
The second set came to an end with the roar of the crowd showing once again that Gillian Welch is alive and kicking and will forever be a Missoula favorite for all ages.  Gillian and Dave came back on stage for not one encore; not two encores; but three encores.  Sending the crowd into a louder frenzy with every re-entry back onto the historical stage at the storied Wilma Theater.  The encore(s) some of the best I have ever seen consisted of five songs all which will be a precious and very personal treat for the sold out Wilma crowd who were able to not only witness the time machine that their sound and songs bring.   Two musicians who are some of the finest all-around on the circuit today left the rowdy crowd pleasantly exhausted, full of joy and their roots-grass desire's fully satiated.  Well Played Gillian Welch, well played. 
Words: Zach Nelson 
Photos: Kevin Kenly 
Zach Nelson is the founder of MissoulaLIVE, a website aimed reporting and reviewing all live music in the Western Montana area.  Kevin Kenly of Kevin Kenly Photography, a professional is also curates MissoulaLIVE.

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