The Consumption: Nov. 23

CONCERT: Vic Chesnutt: Opener Liz Durrett held the crowd’s attention with just a classical guitar, a well-used distortion pedal and a lovely, expressive voice (which reminded me somehow of both Sarah McLaughlin and Feist). Apparently her album is more fully orchestrated, but the sparse setting suits her, and the distortion was more than enough to add variety to the arrangements. A good way to set the mood for the evening, and another reminder of how absurdly well-behaved Marquee Room crowds are. Honestly, the last few shows I’ve seen there, you could hear a pin drop.
Even from a wheelchair, Chesnutt commands the stage. Actually, that feels like the wrong word — he somehow seems too sweet to command anything, mostly thanks to his banter (asking where the cowboys were and then scolding the crowd for turning against their own when they laughed, reminiscing about staring at Emmylou Harris’s behind when he played the Calgary Folk Music Festival). But musically, the Vic Chesnutt Band is a powerhouse. The members of A Silver Mt. Zion have restraint down to a science, refusing to add an extraneous note. Then, all hell breaks loose, with Chesnutt’s distorted acoustic guitar trading blows with Guy Picciotto’s electric, which occasionally sounds like a wounded animal. Then another slow, bluesy number, coasting on an easy groove, Chesnutt chatting with the crowd between verses. Both extremes seem entirely unforced.
Chesnutt’s voice has bluesman confidence and world-weariness, but he’s not afraid to wink. He dedicates one song to “The often-late Vic Chesnutt.” In the encore, he plays a song from his first album, just him and his guitar. The chorus: “I am not a victim. I am intelligent. I am not a victim. I am an athiest.” It’s the closest thing he gets to an anthem, powerful even without the muscle of Zion and Picciotto.

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