Patty Griffin @ Warner Theatre 4/17/07: Review

Now, I’ve seen Patty Griffin before, and I’ve got several of her CDs, so I already know what she sounds like. But when she sat down at the piano last night and opened with a French lullaby, my immediate thought was still, “God, what a beautiful voice!” It’s the kind of voice that can send shivers down your spine.

She was soon joined by a top-notch 4-piece band that accompanied her on a wide range of song styles from bluesy, to folky, to foot-stomping barn-burners. The instrumentation varied constantly, as the band members switched in and out all night, so the audience almost never heard the same combination of the light drums/percussion, guitars, upright bass, cello, bass, and piano twice.

Griffin focused more on her recent material, though I’ll admit that I would have liked to have seen her wail on some rockers from Flaming Red. A lot of her songs were more on the atmospheric side, as opposed to being overly structured and hook-driven. But the band was willing to sit back and create space to give Griffin’s voice room to roam, and the devoted crowd loved it.

The cello added a certain sense of majesty to her songs - especially on the beautiful “Burgundy Shoes,” from her new CD, Children Running Through. I’m a sucker for some well-arranged cello. Patty Griffin even stripped things down, doing a solo acoustic set of more somber material, including a tender version of one of my favorites, “Mary.”

“It’s tough for me to write love songs,” Patty told the audience last night. But she was able to pull it together and write one for her dog on the new album, Griffin revealed, smiling, as the band launched into a soaring version of the new track (“Heavenly Day”).

I also particularly enjoyed that evening’s version of “Up to the Mountains,” another new song from Children Running Through. Griffin initially explained how the song was inspired by a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. Then longtime guitarist Doug Lancio accompanied her with some drippy, bluesy guitar lines on the Little Wing-esque track while Patty sung the heartfelt lyrics.

Their closing encore included a couple of my favorite songs – “Nobody’s Crying” (with some nice atmospheric guitar by Lancio) and a lush, orchestral-sounding “Rain,” so I got to close out the evening on a high note.