The Workman’s Club is a fine venue for acoustic evenings such as this. The warm sound of the room is perfect for an artist like Dar Williams, whose literate and wise observations on the human condition are received with hushed admiration and quiet reflection by all those present.
An enthusiastic visitor to these shores, Dar Williams commands the stage with a confidence borne of years perfecting her craft. She is a fine guitar player and a witty storyteller, but it is her gift of observation that inspires her loyal fan base. Her set tonight is relatively short due to illness in her family on a few days holiday to include this Irish show. However it is all about the quality and not the quantity, so we are left with a warm glow as the single encore ends and she makes her way back to the hotel and nursing duties.
It is a true testament to her enduring talent that Dar Williams celebrates the 20th Anniversary of her debut release, The Honesty Room, a collection that still sounds as fresh as the day it announced her artistry to the world. Tonight it could be argued that the two highlights of the set are taken from this debut with both The Babysitter’s Here and When I Was a Boy beautifully performed and greeted like old friends returned from afar. It is the vocal delivery of the former that absorbed the audience, sung with a sense of the fragility of youth from the perspective of childhood innocence; the latter is quite simply one of the great songs of the last decades, written with a great poignancy but also the ultimate celebration of life and being who you are.
We are treated to other gems from her back catalogue such as ‘As Cool As I Am’ together with a very funny story about an experience with an American Football team who took the chorus to say “ I will not be afraid of winning”, instead of the actual refrain “I will not be afraid of women”.. All told with a wry grin and a wink to the infinite absurdity of life.
Two other songs from the same Mortal City release (1996) are delivered with great emotion and breathing new wisdom into both The Ocean and February seem less about the personal relationships now and more about forgiveness and understanding.
Taken from the latest release, we are given Storm King and I Have Been Around the World both displaying ample proof that the creative flame still burns deep within this sublime artist. It is the however a flawless performance of The One Who Knows which resonates mostly with me and the beauty of her selfless message to her child and the love contained in the words; “I’ll shine the light that guides you down the road you’re walking on” – a beautiful moment captured with grace and gratitude.
Dar Williams is a real treasure, a genuine keeper of the flame and long may it burn brightly for her.
Review and picture by Paul McGee