March 1, 2011

In Review

About a week ago, my dear brother and I ventured into the city on quite possibly the coldest evening this winter to see the wonder that is The Civil Wars. The biting cold wind on my neck and the near loss of my lips was worth it to hear even just one minute of their serenades in that tiny Red Room.

The opening act was just average, but with a killer mandolin player. As entertaining as he was, I was antsy and eager for them both to scoot so we could get on with it. In between sets, I saw John Paul White standing in the corner and I nearly bubbled over with excitement.

When the two emerged, John Paul was wearing a slate blue suit with a white striped shirt and a patterned tie, and Joy was wearing a short, black, velvet dress with a lace neckline and an aqua sash tied into a big bow behind her. Her hair was down and curled and she donned these deadly four-inch black heels with an ankle strap that I didn't even understand. She was crazy to stand up there in those bad boys for over an hour.

They opened with "20 Years" which was an unexpectedly slow start, but it picked up shortly thereafter when "Barton Hollow" was their third of fourth title. All of a sudden, Joy's monstrous heels made sense as she bashed the ground for effect on that syncopated downbeat. No bass drum? No problem. This song. changed. everything. The crowd suddenly felt electrically charged as those harmonies, so unrestrained but precise, rang through our ears and bounced off of those close walls. It was awe-inspiring and Tony and I just looked at each other laughing.

That happens sometimes. Peoples' jaw-dropping talent can leave you so struck that you laugh. Isn't that weird? It happens at John Mayer shows for us too - specifically when we witnessed the most out-of-this-world drum solo that we ever heard for over sixty measures.

Anyway, we laughed at John Paul and Joy's perfect musical union together and shook our heads in disbelief. The evening carried on in this fashion for over an hour until they finally closed with "Poison & Wine." Of course. It was organic and stunning, as we all expected, and the bowed to our clapping for minutes on end...

Only to return and play "Billie Jean" as an encore. So unforeseen and fabulous.

The show was this grand force to be reckoned with musically, but they were also hilarious as individuals. Their stage presence was almost too good. It made me a little uncomfortable to watch them interact the way that they did, knowing that they were both married to other people. It works wonders for their music but it makes me a tad concerned for their personal lives. But besides that, John Paul White was hysterical with this dry, careless sense of humor that he would slip in from time to time just to keep us on our toes, and Joy was always so quick to laugh.

Overall, The Civil Wars are the best duo since The Weepies for me, and the live experience only solidifies the threat they are to other American folk duos. Watch out everyone, these two are on the up and up and can't be stopped. If you ever get the opportunity, rearrange your life to see them.

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