Live Review: The Civil Wars and Milo Greene, Lincoln Theatre, Washington DC – 23rd October 2011

By on Monday, 7th November 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

The Civil Wars made their DC headlining debut on 23 October at the gorgeous and historic Lincoln Theatre. Washington, DC natives Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey played on the same stage regularly, as did Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughn, so it’s truly a prestigious place to introduce yourself to the DC music scene.

But to begin at the beginning – it is a rare thing for me to go to a gig where a completely unknown (to me) support band blows me away and makes me a convert. Milo Greene from Northern California did just that.

The band played a mix of instrumentals, original songs, and a great cover of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Chicago’. Throughout their set, they passed the guitars, banjo and bass amongst the band members like “a beautiful Chinese fire drill” – so dubbed by Joy Williams of the Civil Wars later in the evening. Likewise, they also shared the lead vocals duty. Typically, this inconsistency in vocals annoys me; Broken Social Scene simply has not grabbed me because of this very reason. But somehow it not only didn’t bother me with Milo Greene, in fact it only increased my appreciation of them. The lone female of the group, Marlana Sheetz, announced from stage that at each show on the tour, she would be offering the necklace she was wearing during the gig for a $50 donation to the charity A Place Called Home, a nice gesture that keeps them connected to their California roots as they traipse through the country. While all their songs washed over me with a deliciousness, it was their closing song ‘1957’ that struck me as the one that will take them into the public consciousness. It’s a tightly crafted song with interesting variety that keeps it fresh. With the recent success of the Mumford and Sons type sound, I suspect Milo Greene will find receptive audiences wherever they go.

That, and I am a sucker for banjo.

The Civil Wars set was pared down, with just John Paul White on guitar and Joy Williams on keyboards (but only for two songs), the music was as pure as it gets. Taking the stage in black tie and a fetching black cocktail dress, they complemented each other like few acts I have seen, flirting with each other and engaging the audience as if we were old friends of theirs. Williams was downright mischievous towards her partner rapping on his guitar, tweaking his side, and acting like she shared a secret with the audience White was not privy to.

Williams’ voice complemented White’s guitar in such a way that it seemed as if it were another instrument on stage. The cover songs were a bit of a surprise. It’s not often that you consider Motown ripe for a folk treatment, but the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want you Back’ worked unexpectedly well. The title track of their debut 2011 release ‘Barton Hollow’ gave me chills with its power. It was the last song written for the album and nearly didn’t make it. Scores of people in the room with me were glad that it did though. And in a supreme sign of respect, when there were pauses in a song, you could have heard the metaphoric pin drop in the 1200 seat theatre. People were held with rapt attention to every note, every nuance that the duo gave us. They were spell-binding. The Civil Wars paid great respect to the hallowed old halls of the Lincoln Theatre with their stunning music.

After the cut: more photos and set lists.

Milo Greene Photos:

Milo Greene Setlist
Antlers (instrumental)
Don’t You Give Up on Me
Silent Way
Perfectly Aligned
Take a Step
Autumn Tree
Chicago
Polaroid (instrumental)
Cutting Love
Son My Son
1957

The Civil Wars Photos:

The Civil Wars Setlist:
Tip of My Tongue
Forget Me Not
From This Valley
Twenty Years
I’ve Got This Friend
My Father’s Father
Barton Hollow
Falling
C’est La Mort
I Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
O Henry
To Whom It May Concern
Birds of a Feather
Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins cover)
Poison & Wine
Encore:
Billie Jean
Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen cover)

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