Review:: William Elliott Whitmore live @ the Red Room

Last night was one of those nights that reminded me why I love music. From 5:30PM until midnight, I was running around the city to see some of my favorite artists. It started with an in-store solo performance by Ben of Lucero and Rocky Votolato, and ended with an amazing set by the National. I’ll review both of these later, but the set I was most excited about was the opening act for the Lucero show, William Elliott Whitmore.

I’ve talked about Whitmore a lot lately. His story is an interesting one. One man, one banjo and a whole lot of soul. As expected, the club was pretty barren when William took the stage. Dressed in a simple button-up shirt and a fedora, I’m sure William’s appearance made a few people concernicus. As he began stamping a hole in the stage to keep time, William captured the attention of the few lucky people in the room.

Since William spends his free days living in a small house in Iowa, it’s not surprising he was unaffected by the few people in attendance. He simply leaned back, closed his eyes and began to sing. His gravely, whiskey soaked voice exploded when he broke into Digging My Grave and the room went silent.

Without relying on effect, harmonies or a backing band, Whitmore completely grabbed my attention and refused to let it go. When he finished the song a subtle tranformation occured. Instead of the assured singer belting out songs his powerful voice changed into that of a sincere musician amazed that people were listening to him. Assuring us he’d only take a few minutes so we could get to hear Rocky and Lucero, it was obvious he’s blown away that people want to hear his music. He’d stop to thank people for clapping and constantly reinforced the fact that the upcoming acts would be well worth the wait.

He only played for about twenty-five minutes, but for that twenty-five minutes I was speechless. His voice was powered through the silence, and as he got into the songs his strums started echoing the anger and depression of his lyrics. Dry, From the Cell Doors to the Gallows and Take it on the chin sounded amazing, but perhaps the most amazing part was during his last song. In a room full of no more than twenty people, most of who had never heard the song before, people began clapping and stomping in time with William. The echo of the stomp turned into disarray as William frantically sped up the pace to close the set, leaving with a final strum and a crowd in awed silence.

For anyone who is lucky enough to catch this tour, go early. Whitmore will blow your mind.

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