William E. Whitmore- Whelans Sept 09September 29, 2009
The one thing I love about listening to music and going to gigs is my ability to still be surprised. William E. Whitmore would not be the first artist that I would think of to throw on the hi-fi but his live performance has left me utterly floored and this night in Whelans turned out to be the best gigs I have been to in a while!
Before going on too much about William, SquAreHeAd was up first in an acoustic set. Arrived after he had kicked in but caught most of his tunes and they were quite good- he was a bit nervous though and he seemed to be racing through them. Still a little rough around the edges for his solo work but one to watch I think. Just as an aside it might be an idea if he has a different name for his solo work so you will know if it’s just him or the band!
William E. Whitmore was up a short time after, whiskey in hand. I should state now before any Pioneers in the audience faint that there was a lot of drink flowing at this gig- not just on and off the stage but between the stage as well! It wasn’t just the drink that was flowing either- William’s personality was over-flowing and his exuberance was infectious- my god did he connect with the crowd and after the gig you nearly felt like you had found a new friend.
His first three tunes were between the guitar and banjo and with a strong gravelly voice that you could literal down an oak tree with- between the beats on the side of the guitar and his foot stomping he was his own percussion section as well. He did have a drummer with him though and Whiskey Texas came on for some great subtle beats on quite a few tunes before disappearing and reappearing at intervals. In regards to the actual tunes themselves, I wouldn’t usually be a lyrics man as it’s the tonality of his voice that drew me in but lyrically he can tell a great story with the music tying everything together.
When it comes to stories though it’s not just the one in the tune, as I said before he was engaging with the crowd and there is no way to remember all the stories he told in-between the tunes. Some were extremely funny though and one before the Johnny Law tune about touring with the Pogues and coming across a drunk guy passed out in his dressing room (not Shane McGowan as he pointed out!) who turned out to be a cop was a memorable one! He was also very good about shaking hands with the crowd during the breaks as well as taking the jibes from them…at one stage a woman asked him to strip but all she got in return was one shoe taken off.
As I mentioned, alcohol was flowing and with these stories quite often came some more pints of Guinness from the crowd for him and his drummer…during one break one intrepid (read drunk) fellow brought up his girlfriend for some Baby Guinness shots with William and I lost track how many shots of whiskey were brought up for him. It wasn’t one way though and at one stage Whiskey Texas brought out a bottle of Jameson, William took a swig and then handed it out to the crowd for them to finish! Shame that I was driving that night.
He finished the main part of his set with not just a rousing tune but with one hell of a story before it about digging holes, black powder and bowling balls…the fun you can have when you live out in the middle of nowhere! The tune itself was Dirt and sung in an Arlo Guthrie style it was an excellent closer. Of course the crowd were not going to be pleased with just that and he came back on for a quite a few more tunes before heading off for good. All in all I think he played for about 2 1/2 hours and you could see his exhaustion at that stage so you couldn’t ask for much more than that!
I am sure he will be back to Dublin sometime soon and if you get a chance to see him- DO and you will definitely not regret it!