MUSIC | Dar Williams at the Guthrie: Giving and taking


Guitar clutched close to her body, Dar Williams walked on stage Saturday night at the Guthrie Theater to a room full of cheers and excited applause. Following closely behind her was an impossibly tall gentleman who sat down at the keyboards set up just behind her microphone and wooden stool. They wasted no time on greetings or introductions and jumped right into “Spring Street,” an older song about the never ending possibilities of starting over. Much in the way Dar is a musician I’ve respected and loved for years, “Spring Street” is a a song I’m intensely familiar with. However, it’s immediately apparent that we’ve all changed since we were last acquainted.

The two-night residency at the Guthrie’s intimate Dowling Studio was in support of Williams’s latest release Many Great Companions, a collection of the best of Williams songs from over the years, with a few tracks revisited with folk-friends Sara and Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek fame), Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and Minnesota’s own Gary Louris. Williams explained her decision to rerecord some of the early tracks: “The song and the singer have travelled many miles since the first recording. The first album is a stranger—[albeit] a sweet little stranger.”

Williams’ selection of songs over the course of the night ranged from her earliest releases to songs from her 2008 studio album Promised Land. It was soon clear that it was a night to relive stories with good friends in light of the years that have passed since they occurred.

The most striking element of Williams’s performance on Saturday night was her perpetually effervescent stage presence. While singing, she’s bouncing and putting all of herself into her performance. When not singing, she’s proving that her excellent storytelling abilities extend beyond her songs. She would start a sentence and it would unravel into an entire story without a pause for breath. When the story was finished, she’d stop, giggle, and strum her guitar. For instance, the story of her an earlier tour and album: “…there was this guy I was trying to break up with and it took me 18 states and I broke up with him in my sister’s driveway and my sister thought I was a loser and I kind of was.” Even the most diehard fans of Williams probably learned a few new stories about beloved songs.

Williams, who is very environmentally and culturally conscious without fitting any hippie stereotype (she remarked at one point, “You know who got me to shave my armpits? Joan Baez”), mentioned on several occasions her exceedingly positive impressions of the arts and green movements in the Twin Cities area. She was very excited that she was able to spend more than two days in here in town and had spent her time seeing several productions at the Children’s Theatre and visiting the co-ops around town. She even mentioned that she would be taking her newfound knowledge of Hennepin Island’s working hydroelectric plant back to her small town of Hudson Highlands, New York. What they’ll do with it, we’ll have to wait to find out until next time their favorite guitar-slinging daughter comes to town.

Set list
1. Spring Street
2. The Easy Way
3. If I Wrote You
4. Buzzer
5. Summer Day
6. You Are Everyone
7. The Ocean
8. You Rise and Meet The Day
9. You’re Aging Well
10. It’s Alright
11. The Beauty of the Rain
12. Are You Out There?
13. Oh Canada Girls
14. Christians and the Pagans
15. After All
16. Mercy of the Fallen
17. When I Was a Boy

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