Patty Griffin & Buddy Miller | 3.26.10

I found myself thinking that if all church music was this amazing I’d be one born again dude.

The Pageant 3.26.10

Kicking off her tour in grand fashion, southern songstress Patty Griffin performed songs from her new album Downtown Church for an enthusiastic capacity crowd at The Pageant. Produced by Buddy Miller, the album features a mix of traditional gospel, original songs and classic covers that combine to form a hypnotic mix of soulful country hymns that make for a transcendent live show.

Miller himself kicked off the show, performing a solo version of “How I Got To Memphis” before being joined by a backing band that included Griffin on backing vocals. “How’s that for the shortest opening act ever?” he joked. Buddy continued a rapturous opening set though, with his raspy bluegrass howl beautifully countered by Patty’s delicate alto. His smoldering guitar playing was a bit of a revelation (to me anyway), particularly on the raw rocker “Gasoline and Matches”. A stunning solo version of “Don’t Wait” closed his opening set to thundering applause as several fans took to their feet in appreciation.

When Patty Griffin took the stage, she was greeted by an even louder ovation from the full house and was joined by the same rhythm section, Miller and her guitarist and keyboard player. For the next ninety-plus minutes the sextet led us through the front doors and right to the altar of her Downtown Church. The set was nearly all songs from the new release, featuring “Move Up” and “If I Had My Way” to set the spirit alight early on.  The gospel revival vibe was further enhanced by the huge stained-glass set design behind the band, and I found myself thinking that if all church music was this amazing I’d be one born again dude.

As she paused to tune her guitar, Griffin shared how honored she was that so many people have chosen to sing “Heavenly Day” at weddings but sheepishly admitted that she wrote the song for her dog before belting out a goosebump-inducing version. A touching cover of Waylon Jennings’ “I’m a Believer” followed, along with another dose of tunes from the new record that peaked with a rollicking cover of the Leiber/Stoller classic “I Smell A Rat.” Griffin’s fantastic backing band was a study in subdued intensity and sublime textural accompaniment, especially guitarist/bandleader Doug Lancio’s wickedly tasteful playing. Griffin and her band ended the set with an especially soaring version of “We Shall All Be Reunited” before leaving the stage amidst roaring applause.

Beaming before the thankful crowd, Patty emerged from the darkened wings of the stage a minute later to graciously thank the crowd and play a solo version of “Top Of The World” before her bandmates joined her to close out the encore with “Coming Home To Me” and her epic “Up To The Mountain.” It was a glorious night of music played from straight from the heart and the crowd knew it. When the band took a well-earned group bow, they did so in front of a joyful congregation and many of the newly converted. | Corey Woodruff


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