Dar Williams at the Sheldon

Friday night I finally got to see Dar Williams live.  It was everything I’d been expecting and more.  She was wonderful musically and far funnier with the between song patter than her live album suggests.

I picked up the 3 CDs that I did not already have and was hoping to get her to sign them after the show.  The Sheldon volunteer staffing the merchandise table said she was going to.

The show consisted of 2 sets with an intermission.  Set 1 started off with The Babysitter’s Here, while Set 2 began with The Christians and the Pagans.  She played a few songs from her newest, My Better Self (Teen for God, Blue Light of the Flame, So Close to My Heart, The Hudson), along with songs from probably all of her albums.  She did not perform My Friends to my minor disappointment, but she did do After All, for which I was extremely grateful.

After the show, she was supposed to meet with the Sheldon subscribers, and then with whoever had donated a certain amount to the cause she was supporting in St. Louis, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and St. Louis Earth Day.  Dave and I, along with a woman who had bought Dar’s childrens book, Amalee, and her friends waited around the merchandise booth.  Time passed.  The volunteer told us to go backstage.  A big, burly security guard said otherwise, rudely.  The wonderful Sheldon volunteers tried to figure out what to do for us.  Anyway, a couple who had donated to the cause gave our group 2 passes to the backstage meet and greet.  So the lady with the book and I went down.  The guard was super sweet now!  A few minutes later he figured out we had friends waiting for us and said we had "escort privileges" with our passes and that they could hang out too.  What a dick!

Our two little groups were the last ones in line and it took a long while, but we did get to meet Dar.  She was wonderful and very, very warm and engaging after what must have been a long night for her.  She autographed my three CDs and we talked for a few minutes.  I don’t think I gushed or said anything too stupid, but then I’d had an hour or more to think about what to say.  Among a bit of chit chat, I thanked her for all of her music, but particularly for the songs After All and My Friends.

I told her how After All helped me to understand a fundamental truth during the darkest time of my life, and that I was pretty sure no one could have written those words who had not personally been severely depressed and suicidal.  She said that, yes, if she died right now she’d "be really upset."  I told her that I knew exactly how she felt; one doesn’t struggle to crawl out of those depths just to have fate or an "act of God" take it from you.

Go ahead, push your luck, find out how much love the world can hold,
Once upon a time I had control, and reined my soul in tight.
Well, the whole truth, it’s like the story of a wave unfurled,
But I held the evil of the world,
So I stopped the tide, froze it up from inside,
And it felt like a winter machine that you go through and then,
You catch your breath and winter starts again,
And everyone else is spring bound.

And when I chose to live, there was no joy, it’s just a line I crossed,
It wasn’t worth the pain my death would cost,
So I was not lost
or found.

Cause when you live in a world, well it gets into who you thought you’d be,
And now I laugh at how the world changed me,
And I think life chose me after all.

I crossed that line, at least once, and as bad as it sounds it is a very positive thing.  This song helped me to realize that.  Now?  Well, now I do think that I am finally spring bound.

I also told her that My Friends was equally important in that it reminded me of the utter and unfathomable importance of true friends at a time that I could not feel the love of my friends.  I knew intellectually that they were there for me, and I was relying on them, I just could not feel them.  Here is what I said before about My Friends.  I must have cried the first 100 or so times I heard this song; the first few times I completely broke down.  Luckily I was at home.  Even today, if I really am listening, it produces a tear or two. 

Sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I need a witness.
And I like the whole truth,
but there are nights I only need forgiveness.
Sometimes they say, “I don’t know who you are
but let me walk with you some.”
And I say, “I am alone, that’s all,
you can’t save me from all the wrong I’ve done,”

But they’re waiting just the same,
With their flashlights and their semaphores,
And I act like I have faith and like that faith never ends
But I really just have friends.

Dar Williams is simply a beautiful human being and she writes the most lovely songs; songs that are full of power, truths, beauty, joy, and questioning.  Thank you so very much Dar, for helping life choose me.

4 thoughts on “Dar Williams at the Sheldon

  1. I saw Dar last fall in Seattle. I love love love the Mortal City CD, but to be honest, I haven’t cared much for what she’s recorded since then. I realized at the concert that I would have enjoyed a Dar show much more if I’d seen her about eight years earlier. I wonder what fans of her newer stuff think of Mortal City and The Honesty Room?

  2. Anna, not sure when I “stumbled” across Dar, but I bought my first CD (End of the Summer) in Jun 2001. I probably heard her on the local public radio station (WGLT in Normal, IL) right before that.

    I bought The Green World a month or so later, and the live CD in Nov 01 and My Better Self a few months ago.

    I love pretty much all of it. As for just now getting Honesty Room and Mortal City, I’d of course heard several of the songs on the live CD, particularly (off the top of my head) “The Christians and the Pagans” and “The Babysitter’s Here.” So I was reasonably well prepared for the older stuff.

    As for other fans, I have no idea.

    I’m not sure what the difference between the older and newer stuff is for you, but the same thing (for me) is also true for Ani. I didn’t discover her until late 2000 (I think), but started picking up newer and older stuff. I never looked back and finally I just got it all! :)

    I saw your Erin McKeown pics in flickr. I’ve unfortunately only seen her once. It was Feb 2001 and she was with 3 other ladies comprising Voices on the Verge. It was an excellent show! One of these days I need to get pick up some Erin. Any recommendations for what order to proceed?

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. I remember the first time I saw Dar Williams. My now-husband and I had been out on our first date in college (at Wesleyan), and we came back to the dorms to find out that an alum was playing the coffeehouse in the lounge that night. That would be Dar Williams.

    Corey and I thought her performance so awesome that, in the spirit of supporting poor, starving artists, we gave her what cash we had for gas money, and complimented her on her performance. She said we should take a CD or something, and after much back and forth (we gave her the money for *gas*, she was gonna need the CDs and such to *sell* later), I took a cassette tape of “All My Heroes Are Dead,” which I still own. I made a copy of it, so that I could keep it pristine, and play the copy into the ground, which I nearly have.

    A few years later, Corey and I were in Klekolo, a coffeehouse a bit of a walk from campus, and we heard a familiar voice. Upon inquiring with the coffee guy, he did confirm it was Dar Williams album “The Honesty Room”, which has a few tracks from “All My Heroes Are Dead”. We were elated that she’d made it big.

    Every now and again, if we see her in person, we’ll wait in line to say hi. We talk to her briefly, then, at some point, she’ll recognize us, and say, “You guys are still together?!” We often joked we’d invite her to our wedding… alas, we didn’t invite her to city hall with us. ;)

    Bottom line: I’m a big fan, and she’s awesome, especially live. I haven’t heard her newer albums yet, but I do feel she’s definitely grown and stretched her style in a good way over the years. Haven’t seen her live since she played the FHM in Harvard Sq a few years back, when she told us she was on her way to getting married, and gave us her flowers. :)

  4. Wow Andrea, that is so cool! There are a few artists I hope to be able to say that about someday. I guess there are a fair amount of people I’ve seen here in Champaign-Urbana and over in Bloomington-Normal in coffee shops or bars that I absolutely adore and think deserve to do as well or better than many of the folks that the industry cram down our throats.

    I agree that Dar has certainly grown and stretched over the years. She has grown from a young woman into a fully flowered woman with some actual life experiences and the wisdom those often provide us, if we only pay attention. It seems to me that Dar has been doing just that.

    I am glad that my (then) local public radio station turned me onto her 5 years ago, and that I’ve now had the chance to see her live and acquire the rest of the CDs that I didn’t own.

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