With little fanfare and no setup, the lights went down at the Moore and BAM! Bonnie 'Prince' Billy began. I expected him to be alone onstage, however he was joined by a fiddler/violinist, bassist, drummer and another guitarist, all of whom were wildly talented and enthusiastic performers. The first song was quite "backyard hillbilly" in tone, a sweet little song with a good female backup vocal to accompany Will Oldham on voice. The set continued with some good ol' sad bastard country, with prominent fiddling and tremulous voice. The set overall was not what I'd been given to expect from having heard older work. It was almost…happy? Don't get me wrong, there was more than enough evil in the set, but not as much as I'd prepared for.
I hadn't heard the new album yet and was prepared for a couple of hours of really morose, sinister and depressing folk/country work and a lot more focus on Will Oldham himself. For the most part, we were watching an ensemble cast of characters onstage, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy was but one of them. The highlight of the evening to me was the drummer. Watching that theatrical man drum throughout the night was like watching someone paint with sound. He unintentionally stole the show with his strange, wild orchestrations at the back of the stage. Plus he had a huge afro.
The schizophrenic playlist shifted back and forth from bluegrass to mountain folk, from blues to honky-tonk, and from intense and cannibalistic to innocent and heartwarming. Lyrics ranged from hopeless: "You're bound to be put down at any cost / Listen to me / You are lost" to quirky: "You say my kissing rates a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10".
It was entertaining to watch Oldham throughout the show as well, as he tends to strike odd poses while performing, mostly standing on one leg and at times dancing a funny little jig. He had toilet paper stuck to his shoe throughout most of the set and apparently wears sock garters, as one slipped down halfway through the show. What a weird man. I want to know him. I want to know anyone who writes lyrics like his! He's got such a huge volume of work I didn't even try to capture a set list at this show!
Oldham entertained us all with his hilarious between-song banter, joking about tour riders, worm-holes onstage and hobos in the alley behind the Moore. At one point, we got a whole weird philosophical explanation about how the number 8 was prime, I can't recreate it here because it was so random and rambly.
All in all a good night, although not terribly exciting. A lot of nice harmonies and duets, entertaining songs and funny merchandising (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy belt buckles, anyone?) made for a very pleasant evening. A little serial-killer-vibe here, a little June Carter/Johnny Cash reel there; it seemed quite enjoyable to all in attendance. The encore was epic and went on forever, incorporating more of the same great orchestrations and ending with a sweet duet about a couple growing old together, yet they still see each other as they looked when young, followed by a big ol' jam. Over the crowd roar, Oldham called out "TTFN" and promptly strode offstage, soon to enchant another audience.