William Elliott Whitmore is at his best when his voice is at its worst. The more rough and textured his vocals are the better the compliment his music. He sings about what he know and that is the most basic elements of life in the Midwest. He details stories of life and death and the dirt, food and good times in-between.
The man took the stage shortly after his opening act Samantha Crain in a teal collared shirt not looking any different from any of the other couple hundred people at The Granada for the Friday night show until he put on his signature hat, then it was showtime. With only an acoustic guitar, banjo and kick drum for instruments the lag-time between shows was held to only a few minutes. This was important on this night in Lawrence, Kansas because there was actually a show after Whitmore would perform. Some dance party with a band named Bassnectar.
Whitmore’s instructions were clear to be off the stage by 11pm sharp so he took to the mic a little early, 9:30 to be exact, and wouldn’t leave his post at the center of the stage until his 11:00 curfew. This was actually nice for concert-goers like myself with an hour and a half drive after the show. Seeing him in this same venue only 8 months ago I knew what to expect, as you always do with Whitmore. You are going to see a passionate, honest, stripped down show.
On this October night Whitmore was caught reflecting on the changing seasons and talking about rainfall over the summer and the onset of autumn. Several of his songs land close to these topic lines like “Dry” (very appropriate for the Midwest summer of 2012) “Diggin’ My Grave” and “Black Iowa Dirt.” There were probably more songs about dirt on this night than any other show you will ever see.
Whitmore would blast through 90 minutes of music covering 22 songs of his recorded catalog and creating an intimate environment with the half full club’s crowd by engaging in several conversations and much stage banter. At one point even making an obscure reference to The Simpsons that he seemed to regret. When talking about Bassnectar someone booed and he responded with the classic Simpsons line “are you saying “boo” or “boo-urns?” He would once again invite the audience to come sit on stage with him and many people would, it seemed less spontaneous and the crowds was more hesitant than last time but it was still a very cool thing for him to do.
He made the most of his 90 minutes on stage covering almost all of his brilliant album Animals In The Dark by doing the first 8 of the 10 songs on the record. He would also take on 5 of the 8 songs from his latest release Field Songs highlighted by “Not Feeling Any Pain.” The February Lawrence show was missing “Not Feeling Any Pain” so I was overjoyed to hear it as it is one his better songs from his 5 album catalog.
Other highlights were the deep-cut “Black Iowa Dirt” from his Hallways of Always album, the banjo filled songs “Lift My Jug” and “Diggin’ My Grave” and the always classic “Hell or High Water” and “Lee County Flood.” He would end the night with a passionate and rousing version of likely his most popular song “Old Devils” that builds to a climactic finish before taking his applause from the crowd. He would then say he wasn’t going to the “go off the stage encore shit” and he would take on one more tune before the 11:00 cutoff. He would do the crowd-shout-along favorite “Mutiny” assisted by only his kick drum.
William Elliott Whitmore at The Granada, Lawrence, KS 10/5/12 setlist:
- Lift My Jug (Song For Hub Cale)
- Let’s Do Something Impossible
- Diggin’ My Grave
- Hell or High Water
- Don’t Need It
- Everything Gets Gone
- Gravel Road
- There Is Hope For You
- Hard Times
- Field Song
- Johnny Law
- Lifetime Underground
- Take It On The Chin
- South Lee County Brew
- When Push Comes To Love
- Not Feeling Any Pain
- Who Stole The Soul
- Black Iowa Dirt
- Old Devils