Americana legend Lucinda Williams headlined Saturday evening at Canal Shores Golf Course for the third night of Out Of Spaces outdoor concert series this summer season. She delivered a mighty and satisfying set of continuous hits and favorites.
A stellar line up of artists headlined the weekend, as the fest carried on marking its annual concert series since 2018. On the heels of Elvis Costello’s bustling and sold out show on Friday, while Saturday night saw Grammy Award winning, singer songwriter and Americana legend Lucinda Williams take the stage.
The 18-hole course at Canal Shores, in operation since 1919, is the perfect venue to comfortably accommodate big-name acts on the single stage and host the sizable festival crowd to match.
A kind of pint-sized Ravinia, the space is neat and ideal. A host of accessible amenities, replete with food trucks from local restaurants, as well as small pop ups from local artists were arranged around the grounds. To the pleasant surprise of the audience, even the parking right outside of the venue was astonishingly manageable.
The green space was splayed with well-worn throw blankets, picnic baskets, coolers and charcuterie boards. There was plenty of room to spread out civilly and enjoy the scenery on the well-kept trim grass.
Family and friends all taking in the ease of the classic late summer evening. Kiddos ran barefoot through the crowd, weaving between the encampments, as moms clinked plastic glasses of Pinot Gris and dads milled around in leather wrap sandals cracking open cold cans of foamy craft IPA’s. It all made for a snug, buzzing scene.
Dusk came down and the music rose with the chorus of cicadas humming in the gallery of the lush dark trees tucked in the perimeter.
Opening up the evening was indie country rock outfit Waxahatchee, featuring Chicago’s own Sima Cunningham on guest vocals. The rocking act was a terrific opener, with a high-spirited rumbling folk energy that got the crowd up and moving along with every chorus.
Williams took the stage as the half moon went up and the gala lights illuminated the gates. The high priestess of Americana kicked off the set with her backing band, The Buick 6, opening up with her 2001 hit, Steal Your Love.
Like turning a key in the ignition on a faithful old El Camino, the thing was on the road.
At 69, Williams remains, a total bad ass. After having suffered a stroke recently, she has opted to focus on singing in lieu of wielding her guitar. That, however, was little hindrance to the performance.
The spirited delivery of continuous hits and favorites on the set came off just as poetically raw and honest as the hard and wry lyrical phrasings that mark the timeless qualities of her songwriting.
Many songs during her the set were tagged with great stories and dedicated to the memory of a mighty roster of late friends and legends.
“Here’s one about another beautiful misfit,” she announced as the band launched into the classic, Drunken Angel, written about the mad and hard-living country outlaw Blaze Foley. Another highlight of the set was Stolen Moments, a song which she wrote shortly after the passing of the late Tom Petty, another close friend of Williams.
The narrative depth of Williams’ songwriting firmly notches her likeness in that solid rock of Americana. Personnel and ghosts aside, her presence on stage is the voice personified, unrelenting in brutal honesty. She blows you a rugged kiss and then flips you the bird at the storied cross roads.
Every note is an undeniable testament that she has definitely been there and back again, many times. All of it contained in the stark beauty and brilliant fabric of her entire catalog, an incredible and dynamic career spanning the past 40-plus years.
Another number, You Can’t Rule Me, was about blues guitar legend Memphis Minnie. Williams played hard, rueful, rocking chords, echoing a fitting homage to the prolific Memphis blues icon of a century ago.
Her backing band Buick 6 fired on all cylinders through the night, holding down the dynamic numbers with expert hard lock timing. Carrying into extended jams at points of departure, they were able to take the songs out for a ride and get the crowd shaking.
For the closer, the band lit up Neil Young’s anthem of the century, Rockin’ in the Free World, much to the delight and bristling energy of the crowd. The shout back chorus brought the whole place together as everyone was up on their feet and rallying along.
Williams stood before the crowd, joyful and smiling at the peak of it all, the thing reaching that high sweet spot of a night, the magic that may come but isn’t always guaranteed.
“Don’t give up the fight. The people have the power,” said Williams, grinning and bidding adieu. “I think Patti Smith said that, but I’ll say it too.”
The set was expertly timed and mighty. The best fighters don’t have to go nine rounds. It was a sure fire K.O. Williams didn’t miss a stitch. She remains undefeated, and tough as ever.