With Victoria Williams, anything goes
The Derby, Hollywood, Cal., April 12, 2002
By Dan MacIntosh
HOLLYWOOD, CA - The Derby is not the same famous restaurant from Hollywood's golden era, because that old hat-shaped landmark has long since been demolished, along with so many other unique Tinsel Town buildings. But inside it, one finds many of its original furnishings and decorations lovingly preserved. Victoria Williams sprinkles her performances with vocal standards, such as "What A Wonderful World" and "Blue Skies." And while she's too young to have lived through the era in which they were originally created, her passionate singing breathes new life into these older compositions, in much the same way this club helps recreate a fondly remembered nightspot's ambience.
Williams is a music lover of almost every variety and era, which is why she's begun to also incorporate Latin elements into her repertoire. This night, she performed the swaying "Water To Drink," which was the title of her last studio album as well as the lighthearted "Mongoose." Her band included a pedal steel player, a trumpeter and an additional percussionist, which gave her the tools to create such an eclectic set list.
With "Train Song (Demise of the Caboose)," Williams was able to get a little funky, and "Hummingbird," on which she played banjo, showed off her folky side. Her husband, Mark Olson, played bass and sang with Williams throughout the show, and performed a duet with her on the tenderly romantic "When We Sing Together."
It's with good reason Williams titled one of her albums "Loose," since her shows seem like they're made up as they go along. Such spontaneity especially paid off when she agreed to a request for "Amazing Grace" as an encore. Her version of it came with a completely different melody from the original, and sounded like the kind of Chicago soul music The Impressions used to make in the Sixties.
The down side of an 'anything goes' show like this one, was that Williams didn't pick up any momentum along the way. Much like a city bus, she stopped and started a lot. Nevertheless, each and every stop along the way was well worth the visit.
Williams is so damned charming, you just can't witness a concert of hers without cracking a smile. And you usually leave the show thinking, "What a wonderful world," no matter how bad that outside world might actually be.