Bill Callahan – Vicar Street – Live Review – 29/09/19
by Killian Laher
Bill Callahan returned to Dublin after a gap of five years to play a long sold-out Vicar St. Those who arrived early were treated to the bizarre Dallas Acid, who played space age-sounding drones, as Linda Beecroft performed occasional vocals. She also lightly patted an enormous ‘gong’ centre stage with drumsticks!
Bill Callahan is one of the finest songwriters out there. Joined by Matt Kinsey on electric guitar, along with a percussionist and upright bass player, they played selections largely from his recent album Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest. Opening with Angela and 747, the ensemble created a highly melodic sound. Early into the set they covered the Silver Jews’ Train Across The Sea which got a great reaction before Callahan strapped on a harmonica for America!
Some of the songs such as Circles and Say Valley Maker were pushed in quite a jammy direction, the music threatening to fall apart but never quite doing so. Drover in particular benefited from this approach, ramping up the tension midsong to dramatic effect. But it was the softer, more stripped back songs which proved the highpoint. Kinsey’s subtle electric guitar on The Ballad of the Hulk rounded out the sound, enhancing rather than overpowering the song. The stoic Released lurched from soft balladry to midsong collapse and back again and worked brilliantly.
Callahan’s Smog material wasn’t ignored, 1999’s Let’s Move To The Country got an airing, and they encored with a lovely version of Rock Bottom Riser. As well as occasional dry wit between songs, Callahan seemed in top form, playing lush versions of Jim Cain and Too Many Birds before inviting Dallas Acid back on stage for an elongated set closer of The Beast.
While it was by no means perfect, Bill Callahan’s fine songs echoed long into the night after the show had ended. Don’t miss him next time!
Train Across The Sea
The Ballad of the Hulk
Let’s Move To The Country
Say Valley Maker
Too Many Birds
Watch Me Get Married
Son of the Sea
Rock Bottom Riser