William Elliott Whitmore sings about what he knows. Armed with just his kick drum and either a banjo or acoustic guitar he retells his stories with not a hint of dishonesty. His songs and stories are as real and authentic as you will ever hear. This could explain why The Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas drew a surprisingly large crowd for his show on Friday, February 10th.
The bill had four different artists so Whitmore would take the stage until moments before midnight for his impressive performance. The lead in bands were scattered and very different from one-another. First to perform was Me For Radness which was a one man band with a guitar and a lot of computer effects and samplings. The short set spent a lot of time setting up the few songs performed and much of it was getting rap samplings set up for a little guitar reverb and a few vocals.
Horse Power took the stage next with a much different approach. The old friends of Whitmore had a very different approach on stage than the headliner. With two drummers and guitar and bass players the wall of sound rarely let up while they were on stage. When there were vocals they were buried under all the drums and distortion.
Drakkar Sauna would take yet a different approach during their turn. The two man band where easily the best match for Whitmore’s music. They sing Grand Ole Opry style music that is drenched in its roots. Acoustic and very old-timey songs would fill their set. They were easily the most intriguing of the three opening bands. Their music sounded extremely dated but in a wonderful way. They received a great reaction from the Lawrence crowd and deserved every bit it.
A couple minutes before Midnight William Elliott Whitmore would sit on his stool, wave to the crowd and tear into “Dry” armed with his banjo. He would switch back and forth between the banjo and acoustic guitar throughout the night depending on what the song called for. He would keep his banjo however for one of his most crowd-pleasing songs next with the ode to drinking “Lift My Jug (Song For Hub Cale).”
Whitmore was supporting his fifth solo album Field Songs but he would spread out his set to feature his whole catalog. He would do four songs off each of his last three albums and five off his 2005 release Ashes To Dust. He would quickly give the crowd permission to come on stage with him in a surprising move. He said he didn’t care if security didn’t care, “Just don’t touch my shit.” he would add. The created a very cool “living room” type of environment for the rest of the show that fit Whitmore’s music perfectly.
Whitmore commented several times about how much he enjoyed playing in Lawrence and had several friends in attendance. He commented he must have played Lawrence a 100 times now since he started. The crowd gave him the “old friend” reception as well, singing along and being very into the show throughout the evening. Despite the late start time, Whitmore still logged a roughly 80 minute set featuring 19 songs including a good amount of requests.
Some of the many highlights of the show were the banjo of “Lee County Flood” and the one of the slower moments of the night with “When Push Comes To Love.” “Johnny Law” naturally got a great reaction from the crowd as did the other Animals In The Dark track performed to close the initial set “Old Devils.”
Whitmore showed how well his new material fit with his other releases by mixing in “Don’t Need It” and “Let’s Do Something Impossible” but neglected to perform what is possibly the best song on the record in “Not Feeling Any Pain.” With songs as strong as his, the setlist is always a winner though. What is in the setlist is always a bigger deal that what is left out.
The biggest highlight of the evening may have been an inpulsive rendition the lead track from Animals In the Dark by request “Mutiny.” The a capella version of the song was performed with a series of hand claps and kick drum beats. The sing along parts where the crowd would respond to the song by yelling “When the hounds start howlin’!” really got the crowd stirring. Whitmore’s encore song “Our Paths Will Cross Again” performed the same way and was met with a similar response.
- Lift My Jug (Song For Hub Cale)
- Diggin’ My Grave
- Hell Or High Water
- Don’t Need It
- Johnny Law
- Everything Gets Gone
- One Man’s Shame
- Take It On The Chin
- Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers Cover)
- Let’s Do Something Impossible
- Lee County Flood
- Gravel Road
- When Push Comes To Love
- Bury Your Burdens
- Old Devils
- Our Paths Will Cross Again