published: 15 /
On a one day sabbatical from touring with Beck, maverick musical genius Bonnie Prince Billy aka Will Oldham plays a wide range of material from across his career to an enthralled audience in Ottawa
There were allegedly some qualms about bringing Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to Ottawa on one of his days off from opening for Bjork. The price was fairly stiff for a solo headliner ($15 up front, or about £6), and other acts have flamed out on a Wednesday, but on this cool summer night, the city’s music fans were obviously eager.
The show was scheduled to start at 8:45 — and remarkably was only seven minutes off the mark.
Adam Solomanian opened the show; he’s a boyish solo artist who accompanies himself on acoustic guitar, singing working-class-stiff songs in an incongruously gravelly voice.
Unfortunately, three-quarters of the way through his set, his guitar’s G-string broke. None of the other acoustic guitars in the club could serve as a replacement, since Solomanian is left-handed ... a lengthy hunt for a string came to fruition ... then a peg popped out and was lost, so an audience member zipped over to his nearby apartment to fetch a replacement for that. What would normally have been a two-minute break, maximum, stretched past 15 minutes, leaving him with just enough time for three more songs. His last number, definitely reflected in his own material, was a cover of the Replacement’s '“Here Comes A Regular'.
Despite the interruption, Solomanian’s set was strong; his musicianship, voice and songwriting skills definitely point to bigger things.
The Golden Famile has adopted another member, their seventh, a violinist named Ryan. Their sound continues to stretch away from their more countrified origins (though they still cover Merle Travis' 'Dark as a Dungeon'). The Famile were in excellent form, having performed several times in the last few months (at
Bluesfest, opening for Saturday Looks Good To Me and The Deadly Snakes) and were in top form.
The audience was eager for Oldham’s performance.
He took the stage, sporting a bit of mascara — the audience applauded wildly. He put his booze, water, and Acoustic Exciter on the velvet-covered table prepared for them — more applause.
He plugged in his autoharp — if it hadn’t been standing already, the audience would have given him a standing ovation.
The Bonnie ‘Prince” would have had to work hard to disappoint the crowd; instead, he dedicated his attention to a wide range of material from across his career, ranging from his cover of the Timms/Langford song 'Horses' (on the Palace compilation '“Lost Blues') to the title track of his latest album, 'Master and Everything'.
His high, lonesome vocals and idle strumming on autoharp had a mesmeric effect on the assembly (at the half-way mark Oldham switched to a combination resonator/electric guitar, but his playing style didn’t change much; he even joked about playing only six of the autoharp’s 36 strings).
Oldham alternately flashed his teeth, grinned, winked, stared and shook his head as he ran through his performance.
By the time he got to 'Wolf Among Wolves' the audience howled in response. The audience was obviously familiar with Oldham’s material, enthusiastically applauding each song, and calling out titles after he announced he’d play two more songs “... then I’ll take a few requests from the aud-die-ance”. (Demands for 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and 'Freebird' were rightly ignored.)
He played several more numbers, retired, then returned for a dozen-song encore, finally leaving the very satisfied crowd with more than an hour and a half of fine music.