Virginia Scene: Keller Williams

Saturday May 1st 2010
Hollins University, Roanoke, VA

Keller Williams is known for his unique musical style and zany covers, and anyone who attended last Saturday’s show received a healthy helping of each. The show drew an eclectic crowd, bringing out Keller fans as well as locals and students from around the area. Keller’s show kicked off Mayfest, an event held by Hollins University, and his set paid homage to the women’s college by including covers by some of his favorite female artists, including Ani DiFranco, Heart, and Erykah Badu.

The show was on campus and the stage was surrounded by resident halls; providing a venue small and intimate enough for the show to be enjoyed to the fullest. There was no competing for space, even up against the rail.

Although the show was short (only one set lasting two hours), Keller fit about twenty songs in his time slot, only stopping the music a few times throughout the course of the performance. Beginning the set from behind the stage, out of view (per his usual routine), he started with “Mental Instra” before moving into “Apparition” and a loop-jam greeting to the audience.

From there, a lively version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” got everyone grooving, setting the tone for the rest of the show. The remainder of the set contained a mix of Keller originals such as “Kidney in a Cooler,” the relatively new “Brown Note,” and an electronic-heavy version of “Freeker by the Speaker,” with an assortment of covers including Heart’s “Barracuda,” Ani DiFranco’s “Swing,” and Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone.” The covers weren’t restricted to female artists, though. The set also included “Back of the Bus” by G. Love and an “Another Brick in the Wall” medley. Keller kept everyone moving for the entire two hours before ending the evening with “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” written by Norman Span; an appropriate conclusion for the venue.

I hadn’t seen Keller in about a year and was surprised by the amount of electronic influence that has found its way into his live performance, especially in traditionally acoustic songs like “Freeker.” This is certainly not to say that the experimentation is unwelcome, as I heard no complaints about this new approach; though I did notice that the show was less acoustic-influenced than I was used to. As a solo artist, I’m sure it is very difficult to keep things “fresh” and come up with new ways to interpret songs (be it covers or originals), and I’m glad to see that Keller continues to successfully test and surpass new musical boundaries.

Despite the short set, the show was well worth the $15 ticket and I couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday night. The crowd initially contained a broad mix of people ranging from Keller fans to locals, but by the end of the show, I’m sure most of those in attendance would gladly consider themselves the former.

-Billy Beheler

Keller Williams
Saturday May 1st 2010
Hollins University, Roanoke, VA

Mental Instra > Apparition > Loop Greeting > Apparition, Rehab* > Kidney in a Cooler > Moondance > Barracuda# > Brown Note, Life is > Back of the Bus% > Bob Rules > Another Brick in the Wall I/II > Bob Rules > Love Handles > Freeker by the Speaker, Tell Me Something Good$ > Swing@ > Do You Wanna Dance? > Boob Job > Tyrone** > “Put Your Hands Up” Loop, Man Smart Woman Smarter

* Amy Winehouse cover
# Heart cover
% G. Love and Special Sauce cover
$ Rufus w/ Chaka Khan cover
@ Ani DiFranco cover
? I did not recognize this song.
** Erykah Badu cover


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