Walking on the edge of becoming a Bonnie “Prince” Billy tribute blog, we were in attendance of Oldham’s show at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, Indiana on March 12, 2009. His newest album, Beware, releases on Tuesday, so, as expected, a large chunk of the setlist was from the album. Before going into the show, I’ve listened to Beware and wasn’t blown away (however, I still bought the vinyl). Granted, the bar he sets is well beyond that of your mainstream artist, but when you have Oldham’s talent average doesn’t fly. Beware feels over produced and lacks the in-your-face and/or playful lyrics that drive his rapidly growing discography. At times the album feels distant; like you are standing outside a country bar and Beware is playing on the Jukebox. There wasn’t a single time that I had to rewind to hear a line again because it was so amazing. “Flat” may be the way to characterize it, even though it pains me to do it. Lie Down in the Light made the indie rounds pretty heavily, but it seems that Drag City is pushing this one even harder and Oldham is on board. I would be remiss to say that Oldham is loosing his indie cred because of promo (including a music video), so I’ll leave that rant to a single paragraph and not mention it again. Basically, if you are an Oldam fan, you will like Beware. You won’t love it.
To the show. Oldham showed up on stage in all black and played a black guitar, just like the color of the new album cover. This was the first time that I’ve seen him in a large venue, about 600 capacity. The theater was full and they even had to add three rows of chairs in the front (two of which we were able to grab after sitting in the balcony for the opener, Azita). Granted, it was no Funtown experience, but quaint nonetheless. Arnett Hollow’s Cheyenne Mize provided the female vocals and violin for the show and was absolutely fantastic. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was their duet “The Girl In Me” featured on the new Louisville for Lovers release (see video below). My second favorite was the first song of the encore, “Easy Does It” from Lie Down in the Light. At that point, everyone was out of their chair and moving to the tunes. Perhaps Oldham was comforted by a standing audience, but he seemed more at home when he wasn’t playing songs from Beware. They ended with a Stanley Brothers cover “Nobody’s Darling on Earth” in which each artists on stage took a verse.
During the concert, Oldham was his normal self and took some time to take shots at the hometown audience (just as he did in Lexington). He asked the Hoosiers why is it that Kentucky doesn’t fall into Tennessee, to which he informed them “Because Indiana Sucks.” Throw in a few other random, but heartfelt, interactions and you have to think that everyone was able to forgive him for his love of Kentucky. Your next chance to see Olham will be on April 11th at the Vogue in Indianapolis (put on by MOKB). Not sure yet if I’m gonna make it up there for it, but if you missed his last few shows, it is not a bad drive for the experience. Also, check out Beware…released on March 17th.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy- The Girl In Me (from Louisville is for Lovers Vol. 9)
Bonnie “Prince” Billy- Without Work, You Have Nothing (from Beware)
Bonnie “Prince” Billy- Nobody’s Darling on Earth ENCORE (Stanley Brothers Cover)
Bonnie “Prince” Billy