Bill Callahan–Concertus Interruptus

Jun 20th, 2011 in Music

Bill Callahan (of Smog-fame) came to Santa Barbara for the first time last Friday (courtesy of Club Mercy) and filled Soho with his deceptively faineant songs and delivery.  Callahan took the stage in sartorial splendor (seersucker suit, dress shoes), addressed his audience with steely-/sleepy-eyed gaze, and proceeded to present a no-nonsense set of his finely crafted and delivered songs.  It can take an audience a moment or two to smooth its nerves to Callahan’s minimalist mien and properly down-shift to be drawn in, but it didn’t take long for the crowd to wind down to Callahan-speed and get lost in his songs.  With only Callahan’s nylon-stringed guitar, deft and subtle percussion (Neal Morgan) and accentuating electric guitar (Matt Kinsey) in support, Callahan’s baritone and songs were given the spotlight.  And they did shine and soar (in gliding fashion, rather than the usual jetting).

Callahan grabbed us immediately with his (seemingly) mission-statement song, Riding for The Feeling.  We’re glad you still are Bill; we’re so glad you are.  Thereafter Callahan played a filling set of mesmerizing songs, taken primarily from his most recent albums, “Apocalypse,” and “Rough Travel for a Rare Thing,” but also including songs from older solo albums (such as “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle“) and from his Smog discography (such as Say Valley Maker).  His songs are marvels of restraint and artistry, and only a few performers are still settling into such subtlety and eschewing the more modern cacophonous bombast.  He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but is one of our favorite brews.

We were chagrined to have to leave before set’s end (car-breakdown, save-the-women-and-children-first motif), but trust that Callahan will return after having found a rapt and appreciative audience in Santa Barbara (bravo to the rare attention-span of this Soho audience).

For a good feel for Callahan, check out his performance of River Guard from the Black Cab Session below, and then the more-embellished Tiny Desk Concert after.

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