This was my first show at the 40 Watt. I’ve never even spent much time in Athens. From my brief spin through town it seems like a fantastic town, and the venue is a near-perfect size with a very cool vibe. Too bad it was on a Monday night and I didn’t get home ’till about 1:30 (Thanks Tom for driving, and for the ticket!)
I’ve seen M. Ward once before. Oh, I just realized I could go dig up my review from that show. Here it is:
M. Ward (Solo) at Bimbo’s 365 Club. February 3, 2007 Got there in time for the last couple of songs by the opener: Victoria Williams. She sounded like Cindi Lauper’s retarded cousin. Apparently she’s pretty well known among musicians, and I’ve since found out she’s got Multiple Sclerosis, so I feel kind of like a jackass for ripping on her, but the point is I did not enjoy her songs and I enjoyed her chatter between songs much less.
There was a long break before M. came out (aside: does anyone know M’s full first name?). The long break was annoying – I mean it’s a SOLO show – it can’t take you that long to get ready. Well, he came out and was tearing it up on acoustic guitar – the guy is really a very talented guitar player, which I hadn’t realized from listening to the albums. So he wraps up this long tasty solo and then gets going with the songs.
The songs were good, but not great. Problem 1) this was a sold-out show, so it was packed and we were standing on a crowded floor. It is tough to stand for that long to listen to really mellow songs. 2) I think he was excited to be playing to such a large enthusiastic crowd, so I think he put some extra energy into his guitar playing. The problem with that is that many of the songs thrive on the subtleties that exist in the songs. Those subtleties were gone (and I missed the band on a lot of the songs). Finally, I thought I knew a decent amount of his catalog, but he played a lot of songs I didn’t recognize. He closed the set with “undertaker” and recorded 3 guitar loops that looped on top of each other as he left the stage – that was really cool and very pretty. We left during the encores. Bottom line – I would only see him again if it were in a venue where I knew I could sit down. It’s not good standing up music.
Given that previous experience, I was worried about this show. I was afraid that he would again put too much energy into his mellow songs and spend too long rocking out on the guitar. Well, he opened the set with a few mellow numbers (including “post war” which is one of my favorites) and then he proceeded to turn it into a rock concert (he had a full band this time). Strange thing was, this time it worked for me. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect this time, but I really enjoyed it.
Show was extra special because he came out and did one encore. He really gave the vibe that he’s a “one encore” type of guy. The house lights even came on for a few seconds, then they went off again and he came back out for a second encore. It felt like a true second encore – the way it’s supposed to feel. Like M had no choice but to come back out and try to appease the roar of the crowd. His second encore was “Vincent O’Brien” and it was great.
I was bummed that Zooey didn’t make an appearance (I heard she DID sing one song with him in NC the night before), but she wasn’t on the bill so I hadn’t gotten my hopes too high. I now wholeheartedly recommend M. Ward’s live shows (as long as you know you’re going to get a rocker and you won’t hear too many of those mellow songs you love).
p.s. Sorry i don’t have a crappy picture of the show to share here. There were signs posted all over saying the artist had requested ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY for the show. Near the end of the set I held up my iPhone anyway, and like magic, before I could take the picture, there was a hand on my shoulder connected to a dude telling me (politely, but firmly) “no photography.” It was kind of eerie. And here’s the full setlist (thanks again to Tom):