Live Review: The Civil Wars at Slowdown (plus RAA and New Pornos tonight)

Joy Williams, left, and John Paul White are The Civil Wars.

The running gag last night went something like this:

“What did you think?”

“They were just OK.” (Everyone laughs.)

It was funny because The Civil Wars were incredible. You know, that sort of “how could anyone have anything better to do than be at Slowdown right freaking now to see this?”

Yeah, like that.

I got to see the band perform at South By Southwest just a month ago, and I’ve been telling everyone I know to go see them.

Their songs are sort of country, folk and bluegrass. It’s no surprise that The Civil Wars’ John Paul White is from Alabama.

White and musical partner Joy Williams are both talented and accomplished solo artists. Together they have this telepathic sort of connection that allows them to sing simple yet beautiful harmonies.

I got shivers. No joke. Goosebumps and shivers ran down my back while listening to them do “From This Valley” and “Oh, Henry.”

I was impressed not only by the band, but by the revered silence of the crowd. It’s rare to see that outside of a theater performance and I’ve certainly never seen it at Slowdown. Usually there’s a low hum of cell phones, people talking and glasses clinking.

Not on Wednesday. You could hear anything, which made it even more jarring when one guy yelled out “You rock!” and a woman repeatedly requested the duo’s cover of “Billie Jean.” (I think they heard you.)

It was a popular show. Saddle Creek/Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel told me last night that it was originally scheduled for the front room (Slowdown Jr.), but after selling a ton of tickets in the first week, they decided to move it to the main stage. I bet they’re glad they did. It wasn’t a sellout (to my knowledge), but it was packed.

In the end, yes, they did do “Billie Jean” as well as covers of the classic “You Are My Sunshine,” a haunting version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” and a surprising cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”

They had us in the palm of their hands. I can’t wait until The Civil Wars come back and do it again, though I suspect by that time it will be in a room much larger than Slowdown.


Video from Wednesday night:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTYzgOONmX8]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox2zjumJv7s]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un2yakqAr-c]


OK, onto tonight. Are you going to The Rural Alberta Advantage or New Pornographers?

Too much good Canadian indie rock music to choose from.

In interviewed both groups, in case that would help you make your decision. Check out my interview with RAA’s Amy Cole and my interview with New Pornos’ Carl “A.C.” Newman.

I, for one, will be going to see the New Pornographers. I caught RAA twice at South By Southwest and I can’t miss the chance to see the NPs in a small venue like the Waiting Room.

Would have been an amazing show to get them in the same room. Maybe next year.

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