REVIEW: William DuVall: Live at Cutting Room

 

If you have read these web pages of Ghost Cult, you know one of our favorite albums of 2019 is the solo début album from William DuVall of Alice In Chains. While many know him for fronting that legendary band since their comeback in 2006. However, as discussed in our review of One Alone, Duvall’s lengthy career has traversed genres and time-space in a way that all great singer/songwriters can. The album is introspective, yet fiery and lends itself to this solo setting. With the artist doing a brief tour to promote the release, we were excited to see a new side of the man in person at Cutting Room in midtown east neighborhood of Manhattan. 

The dark restaurant/club is a lot different from your usual concert halls. Rather than sweaty denizens pressed against each other, screaming out loud in unison, the audience filed in for an early starter of fancy food, wine, and spirits. The tables were very tightly packed in and I could have lived without getting jostled and knocked into by the wait staff as they needed to navigate the tight spaces. Ultimately, William strode to the sparse stage set up for him with his two guitars, a small table with a glass of water, and a chair. The crowd continued to chatter after the applause and throughout his set, which honestly annoyed me, but that is the environment for this kind of show.

William went straight into song without pause, playing ‘Waiting Out the Breakdown’. His voice resonated from the mic to the front door, with only his guitar playing behind him. It’s hard to sing and play at the same time, even for a master musician. Even more so with acoustic guitar where no distortion can mask a mistake. His picking was on point this tune, and all of them were delivered perfectly. Next, he did an AIC cover, ‘Never Fade’ from the recent Rainier Fog album. It was cool to hear his solo take on the song and to hear only his main parts vocally.

What rules about this performance, like the album, is that the artist doesn’t cave to the conventions of a “rock band guy with an acoustic guitar” crap you tend to get. These songs are stripped down, but full of power and emotion, not unplugged for the sake of it. Most of the set was made up of One Alone tracks, which I didn’t realize were some originals and some songs from his Comes With The Fall days. I really needed to re-familiarize myself with that material. Among the highlights were ‘Smoke And Mirrors’, ‘Still Got A Hold On My Heart’, ‘Keep Driving Me Away’ and the single ”Til the Light Guides Me Home’. He chose great material for covers including David Bowie, a slick Aerosmith deep cut and ‘I Know’ by Dionne Farris (Arrested Development). I loved all the anecdotes he shared about each song. Only the die-hards know William co-wrote and produced Dionne’s solo RnB 1990s album and that it was coincidentally the 25th anniversary of that hit single. He joked about it before playing half of the song, which got the crowd loosened up and singing.

Overall, it was a great performance by the low-key rock superstar, in which he showed his vast talents and chameleon-like ability to adapt to a mood, even down to a chord or a single note.

Set list:

Waiting Out the Breakdown (Comes With the Fall song)

Never Fade (Alice in Chains song)

Smoke and Mirrors (Comes With the Fall song)

White Hot (Comes With the Fall song)

Lady Stardust (David Bowie cover)

Chains Around My Heart (Madfly song)

Still Got a Hold on My Heart (Comes With the Fall song)

So Cruel (Comes With the Fall song)

Seasons of Wither (Aerosmith cover)

I Know (Dionne Farris cover)

Keep Driving Me Away

No Need to Wonder (Comes With the Fall song)

‘Til the Light Guides Me Home

 

KEITH CHACHKES