Lucinda Williams simply shined Sunday night (Sept. 22) in Nashville. The sharp storyteller, the highly-anticipated closing act for this year’s Americana Music Festival, effortlessly stirred souls with an explosive set at 3rd and Lindsley.
Williams’ main mission — capping a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of her landmark self-titled album, a nearly perfect collection with fuel for Mary Chapin Carpenter (the Grammy-winning “Passionate Kisses”), Patty Loveless (“The Night’s Too Long”), Tom Petty (“Changed the Locks”) and several others.
“This is the last night of this run, so we’re all feeling good,” Williams said early on. “It’s been good to revisit these songs.”
Her joy clearly showed. I’ve seen Williams more than a dozen times live and she’s never been better. The 60-year-old was fierce and focused, entertaining and excitable, heartening and humble. Her energy scarcely wavered as she ran straight through the album in order.
Deeper cuts particularly resonated (“Abandoned,” “Am I Too Blue”). In fact, none illuminated the first set more than the soulful roadmaps “Big Red Sun Blues” and “Crescent City” (a song recorded by Emmylou Harris in 1993).
“This was always one of my favorite tracks on the album,” she said before stilling the air with the stunning meditation “Like a Rose.”
The capacity crowd — spurred by a live broadcast on Nashville’s Lightning 100 FM and further energized by Williams’ electric presence — maintained a fever pitch all evening. “This represents everything that’s good in Americana — its history, community and camaraderie,” a woman near the soundboard said gleefully midway through. “I’m so proud to be a part of it all.”
Williams’ second set doubled down on the earlier snapshot with a broad range including older favorites like “Pineola” and “I Lost It,” deftly complimenting raucous newer songs such as “Honey Bee.” Better still, Williams gave us the seamless unrecorded track “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” (She said she’s taking that and other new tunes into the studio next month.)
Of course, key moments from her high watermark album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, such as “Drunken Angel,” “Joy” and “Can’t Let Go,” further ignited the audience. Accordingly, by the time Williams closed with a fiery take on Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and her own barn burner “Get Right With God,” few were left wanting.
“Love and peace,” she said, signing off. “Power to the people.”