July 12, 2019
Bill Callahan played Murmrr Theatre
Earlier this year, Bill Callahan released his first new record in six years. To celebrate, he brought a full band to Brooklyn's lovely Murmrr Theatre.
You wouldn't know it based on his lyrics, but Bill Callahan is a funny guy. On record, his songs are deep, meaningful stories with intricate tales of childhood and family. His deep voice, a balm over his gentle and mesmerizing guitar melodies. Yet when he speaks between songs, he's a man full of jokes. Referring to himself as Big Bad Bill, his banter between songs was minimal, but made the sold out crowd erupt with laughter whenever he spoke. "I think this show sold out in three minutes. That means you all must really love your computers" he joked after a few songs and while his tracks are always so poignant, live he manages to improvise enough to bring his humor into his music. On "America!," he sings about watching David Letterman on TV, but for this show he incorporated a few extra lyrics to acknowledge Letterman's recent Netflix show where he interviews Kanye West and Kanye gives Dave a bunch of clothes to try on in from of Kim K. In the time between his last record and Shepard in a Sheepskin Vest, Bill got married and became a father, but clearly never lost touch with pop culture. He also misplaced his harmonica during the show and asked the crowd if anyone happened to see it. "Well, if you hate harmonicas, you're in luck" he mocked shortly after and proceeded ahead with the next number. Sticking mostly to new songs, his elegant songwriting skills were brought to life and enhanced by wonderful electric guitars and thundering percussion, yet the spotlight was never removed from Bill and his booming vocals. Older songs like "Jim Cain" were truly marvelous, but it was "Let's Move to the Country" and "Let Me See the Colts" that truly brought tears to my eyes. "Drover" was another one that sounded massive with the full band and while it's now hard to not imagine Netflix's Wild, Wild Country whenever I hear it, this rendition took full control and gave the song back to Bill. His writing and word usage feels unparalleled and I often feel lucky to be alive at a time when he's not only continuing to make such stunning music, but able to see him bring these songs to life on stage. For over twenty-five years, his music has felt like such a constant symbol of classic American folk music and it is absolutely incredible to see a body of work remain so fruitful after so much time.