Friday, December 10, 2010

Live: Will Oldham's The Babblers, 12/8/10 at Town Hall, NYC

Without any non-Oldham opening act, The Babblers, Mr. Oldham's new project with singer Angela Babbler (Angie Olson), launched into their performance of Kevin Coyne and Dagmar Krause's entire 1979 album, Babble.

The Babblers would exit following their set, and re-emerge later in the evening, as Bonnie Prince Billy (Oldham) and his band. The members would shed pajamas for formal attire, and would proceed to deliver an expertly and gracefully performed selection of Oldham's work.

As the house lights slowly dimmed last Thursday night, six figures took the stage of Town Hall, all wearing camouflage one-piece hooded pajama suits, four of them in blue-white ones, and the other two in red ones. As the suited figures nonchalantly turned on a collection of small lamps to light the stage, and took their places among their instruments, it was clear that the evening was clearly going to be directed by Mr. Oldham, in a way only he could truly orchestrate.

Hooded pajama onesies aside, it was an enthralling set by the band. "Are You Deceiving Me?" elegantly opened the set with Mr. Oldham's distinctive and  haunting vocals, along with the sweeping and gentle accompaniment of piano, bass, and guitar. Angela Babbler then sang the pounding "Come Down Here", which was followed by the rocker "Dead, Dying...Gone".

Photo courtesy of Connor Lynch from The Babbler's performance in Chattanooga, TN 2010

My biggest impression was how effortlessly The Babblers balanced their set stylistically, showcasing each individual song's power. The country bounce of "Stand Up" was immediately followed by the eerie and eruptive number "Lonely Man".  The duet of "Sun Shines Down On Me" was bridged by "I Confess", to Babbler's (Olsen's) shouting, building upon the awesomely commanding "Sweetheart". Oldham's rocking "Shaking Hands with the Sun" prompted the man to gleefully jump off stage and shake hands with the seated guests in the darkened orchestra section of the venue.

As Oldham and Olson continued to alternate singing duties throughout the evening's set, the band expertly breezed across multiple musical styles, giving each song it's own distinct identity. The gentle lullaby of "My Mind's Joined Forces", the balladry of "Love Together", and the set's minimally and masterfully beautiful closer "It Doesn't Really Matter/ We Know Who You Are" rounded out an incredible performance.

My takeaway from their first New York appearance was how much the band really suits Mr. Oldham, allowing him to stretch out with Olsen and the musicians,  making his distinctive voice an ingredient, and playing himself as part of the collective. I would hesitate to call this a  "Mr. Oldham side project". It just wouldn't do the act justice because all of the players brought so much to the table with their contributions. Mr. Oldham was an equal among his partners on stage. In my opinion, the funny pajama suits helped to present the group as a singular force, with a unique identity.

You can read some of Oldham's thought's on Kevin Coyne and Dagmar Krause's Babble album here.

1 comment:

  1. read more about Coyne and Babble here: