The Scene: Talk about a cross section of people. It was a rare seated show at the Gothic and there were folks who probably hadn’t ventured from their mountain cabins to the big city in months if not years. There were hip 30 somethings who probably stopped by on the way out for the night, and there were a bunch of yuppies who didn’t look like they frequented the concert scene in Denver. It is clear that Wilcox appeals to a wide range of people and while the Gothic wasn’t sold out it was pretty full downstairs.
Opener: The Late Great Jack Ridell. Ridell is a young folk musician who doesn’t really stand out from his peers. While a couple of songs stood out during his set, his style didn’t really speak to me. He seemed a little bit nervous and while he joked a bit he never really connected with the audience.
Musically Ridell seemed to draw on elements of the folk and blue traditions while vocally he did what he could with a (self described) mediocre voice. He often seemed to be almost speak singing and unfortunately he lacked the inflextion or emotion to make it work for me.
While he didn’t bore me, I think that Ridell’s set would have been a bit stronger had he stuck to the solo folk signer model. Instead he brought out another musician to play slide guitar and mandolin. While at moments the slide added to the music, it generally seemed to be an afterthought. Almost like they hadn’t practiced together much at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an enormous amout of respect for musicians who are willing and able to get up on stage and share their music with a room full of strangers. I don’t know if Ridell will make beyond the opening circuit but I do give him credit for trying.
David Wilcox: The first time I saw David Wilcox nearly 12 years ago he amazed me at his ability to connect with the crowd and make even the biggest room feel intimate. Friday night at the Gothic he won me over again. He seems utterly comfortable on stage and as he weaves his trademark stories into his songs his banter is effortless.
Wilcox took the stage moments after Ridell left the stage and played the part of a roadie as he set up his gear. It was a bit comical when Wilcox started to play and the setbreak music didn’t fade out. It was almost as if the sound man didn’t know the man on the stage was the headliner. After a minute or two the message got through and the music faded out and without a word Wilcox launched into his most recognizable song, “Eye of the Hurricane.” This drew a great reaction from the crowd and he proved that his voice is only getting better with age. His second offering, “Rusty Old American Dream,” also came off the How Did You Find Me Here album and Wilcox was obviously on top of his game. His guitar sounded full and clear and his voice as smooth as ever.
The unique sound that characterizes Wilcox’s songs are a product of his mastery of alternate tunings. Throughout the evening he must have retuned his guitar 15 times and each time I was amazed at how quickly he retuned to exactly the right notes.
Wilcox drew on songs from his entire career as a songwriter and completely wowed the audience with a very rare rendition of “Rudy’s Rap.” The song is literally a rap about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. He had the audience in stitches as he flawlessly ryhmed his way through the 2 minute song. If you can find this recorded somewhere, do yourself a favor and pick it up for the holidays.
Wilcox also debuted a song for the Denver crowd. A political statement about bringing peace to Jerusalem. It was a solid new song and again proved to me that Wilcox still has the creative energy to continue to stay on top of the folk world.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: B