Review: Keller Williams @ Variety Playhouse

You’re guaranteed a good time at a Keller show. Whether you have doubt, worry or sadness, you can forget it all for the three hours he plays. Keller has a charisma and magnetism that you don’t see in many performers from the jamband community. It’s just him up on stage and he’s honest. Williams does everything he can to make the show a positive and happy experience for everyone in the room and largely succeeds. There’s no primadonna shit with him.

Keller’s show includes everything and the kitchen sink. Original crowd favorites Kidney In A Cooler, Breathe, Freeker, Vacate, Cadillac, etc. were sprinkled throughout with generous helpings of crowd-pleasing covers like Phish’s Birds Of A Feather, Nirvana’s All Apologies done bluegrass style, a taste of Little Feat’s Fat Man In A Bathtub, The Dead’s New, New Minglewood Blues and on and on. He moves seamlessly from 6-string acoustic to 10-string acoustic to Hofner violin style bass (McCartney-esque, eh?) and engages the crowd as he plays along. Every song performed had contained his signature layered sound except his stripped down, acoustic piano take on the Garcia/Hunter classic Terrapin Station. Which I found particularly moving and seemed to be a personal ode to ole Jer’.

There is much risk/reward in playing solo on stage. If you fall on your ass and fail, it’s you and you alone failing. But if you’re sure of your talent, can keep the audience’s interest and can play an honest tune, then you and you alone succeed. That is what this man does and does well. He will always be able to play/sing for his supper and will always have an audience to appreciate his talent. On this night, Keller succeeded in spades and to the victor go the spoils.


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11 Responses

  1. The 3rd picture up of the stage set-up is actually not Megan Case’s picture, but is mine and it’s from the Avalon Theatre show in Easton, MD, not the Variety. No worries, share and share alike, but i just thought people should know.

  2. I wonder if the WMDs didn’t in fact make Keller more excited to go solo again. After being a one man act for 15 years, it adds a whole new level of logistics to play with a band. The WMDs were awesome, but perhaps he was just happy to be up on the stage by himself.

  3. It seemed to me that Keller luxuriated in the freedom of having the sole responsibility of entertaining/performing on his own shoulders and his shoulders alone. His interplay with other artists is interesting and it’s nice to watch him work within the group dynamic, but I personally feel that he savors his solo presentation above all. Of course his second set from Bonnaroo with SCI in ’02 was one of the many highlights of the first year of Bonnaroo for me.

  4. Anyone know where i can get a copy of this show? I saw two tapers there, but haven’t seen anything posted on etree.

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