Ex-Slint kingpin Dave Pajo tours with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
A two-week long European tour has left little Will Oldham rather hungover in the looks department. Appearing as himself tonight (billed simply as Will Oldham, as opposed to his alter-egos Palace and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), unshaven and sporting a pair of worn-out moccasins and a borrowed blue vest, Oldham is surprisingly still in a boyish mood between songs.
He maintains his melancholia long enough throughout the fifteen songs in order to evoke the desired introspection and silence from the crowd, before bursting into (slightly rehearsed) banter with the front row and guitarist Matt Sweeney about the city, the band and his forthcoming days off.
On keyboards, David Pajo (ex Slint, Tortoise) is up there too. He’s lurking behind David Heuman’s bass, offering little in the way of showmanship, but a shopping-bag full of dark, sad basslines on ‘A King At Night’ and the sombre ‘I See a Darkness’ (the one Oldham did with Johnny Cash on ‘Solitary Man: III’).
Oldham calls up each of the numbers as he sees fit. “We had a set-list at the start of the tour, but it got scrapped after two nights”, he explains afterwards. “Now we’ve got a spontaneous thing going. I just call up whatever song I think the gig needs”. He, in fact, sees fit to recall around half of the new long player ‘Ease Down the Road’, with ‘At the Break Of Day’, ‘Careless Love’ and ‘The Lion Lair’ among them. A psychedelisized ‘Madeleine-Mary’ closes the four-song encore, after Heuman’s hearty rendition of ‘Down In The Valley’ (an old, old country spiritual) with four of the five members singing backing vocals.
Rolling foot-tappin’ rhythms and some bouncy geetar-pickin’ moments keep the plaid shirts happy, while Pajo and drummer Van Dykes offer a deeper indie rock ambience – slipping easily into (and thankfully out of) Sebadoh territory. There’s no support act, there’s no special overhead lighting and no aliases; this is just pure Oldham.