Time the Revelator: Gillian Welch Live at Thalia Hall
Well, not completely bare. A single table draped with a black tablecloth sits center-stage. Two bottles of water await the performers. There are two microphone stands, both positioned to broadcast the acoustic instruments that will be played throughout the two hour-long sets. Beyond that, there is nothing to suggest any finery — the backdrop is a single black curtain. Various backstage elements – a step ladder, touring crates, a trash can – are visible from the edge of the audience. All of these aesthetic choices suggest a haphazard conception, yet there is intention to everything. Gillian Welch’s strength lies in the contrast between the minimalist qualities of her musical performance and the soaring strength of her rich, smoke-flavored voice. The staging only enhances this.
When she takes the stage, she carries an acoustic guitar. Neither her instruments, nor the multiple guitars played by accompanist/collaborator David Rawlins, are connected to any amplifiers. The very presence of a microphone seems a violation of the intimacy of her music. One gets the feeling that the best way to listen to the music of Gillian Welch would be to sit in a parlor room in Nashville as she and Dave play their latest offerings for family and friends. We are not at a concert — we’re at a family talent show, invited guests, and what we’re hearing is as fresh as the moment it was conceived.