"Williams quite simply plays music that makes you go, 'Damn!'"
The venue is already chockers come 7.30pm when Dan Sultan takes the stage solo with a sexy red guitar. He immediately commands our attention courtesy of those looks and that voice. Sultan really shines solo and Under Your Skin retains its true grit when performed in this way. Kimberley Calling is an emotional, dynamic standout. We get The Same Man but with added vitriol. Sultan gives his trainer a shout-out, announcing he had "chicken and salad" for dinner before adding "no chips". He performs a closing trio of tracks - including Nobody Knows and Old Fitzroy - on piano, which we didn't even know he played until now. It suits him well and the Forum Theatre massive is wooed silent. Whatever Sultan's been doing we'd recommend he keep doing it.
Lucinda Williams arrives onstage with her impressive backing band and we're away. Musicians such as these play music, not merely a collection of notes. When Williams straps on her guitar for the rollicking Can't Let Go (written by Randy Weeks of The Lonesome Strangers) things really start to rock. Her lyrics are wistful and poetic as demonstrated via People Talkin' ("I love you more than this cruel world will ever know"). Drunken Angel is obviously a deeply personal cut and then Williams provides an appropriately sombre backstory before West Memphis (her song about the West Memphis Three). During this latter song, Jonathan "Butch" Norton - the cowboy hat wearing, maraca playing drummer - supplies impressive bass BVs. Williams plays the title track from her next album (which she tells us is out in February, 2016) called The Ghosts Of Highway 20 and the song's melancholy beauty makes us keen to pre-order this album. Honey Bee is raunchy ("Now I've got your honey/All over my tummy") and gets the crowd moving and hollering. She then sings Dust, explaining it sprang from one of her father Miller Williams' poems.
Come On is another one from the female perspective, which is a satisfying venting song: "You think you're in hot demand/But you don't know where to put your hand," escalates until she shrieks, "Fuck off!" And we all cheer. During Foolishness, Williams adlibs in the, "I don't need... in my life," section, substituting Donald Trump in at one point. "Fearmongers", now that's a great word. "Sometimes a woman's gotta testify," Williams observes. "There's so much shit going on - in my country anyway. You all are very blessed to be here." Joy speaks to many in the crowd and it's a bit of an amen moment. Williams quite simply plays music that makes you go, "Damn!"
She makes us work for an encore and we cheer and stamp our feet. The Clash's Should I Stay Or Should I Go (during which Williams frequently refers to her lyric sheets) is a genius inclusion and she has the necessary sass to pull it off. This song also wonderfully showcases her virtuoso band. Williams comes across like Juliette Lewis' cool aunty. Her diction is bang-on, heightening the stories she tells and one such example is Righteously: "Be my lover don't play no game/Just play me John Coltrane." A cover of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World sees us punching the air in unison following Williams' lead. "Thank you for the gift you've given me," Williams says sincerely. "Love and peace. Power to the people."
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We demand a second encore. Williams tells us her guitarist Stuart Mathis didn't wanna do this song and they bust into AC/DC's It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'roll). It's as if Williams has jinxed herself and she kinda loses her spot lyrically on this one, leaving her band to take it away (which they most certainly do). And we appreciate the sentiment.