Review: Keller Williams @ The Bluebird-Bloomington, IN 10/25/12
When Keller Williams took the stage I funneled in with the rest of the attendees. As the music started, it was apparent Keller was bringing the funk. He opened with a heavily improvised rendition of “Art”, bouncing around the stage creating loops for each instrument. His funky bass beats had the crowd grooving heavily and Keller took the opportunity to get even funkier.
He seamlessly segued into James Brown’s “Get On Up”, sending the crowd into a dancing frenzy. It was impossible not to dance to the sounds Keller was creating. Still playing on, he flowed perfectly into a very fun version of “Broken Convertible”. The silly lyrics coupled with continuing funky beats allowed Keller to show his playful stage presence.
After expressing quick pleasantries, Keller played his staple Dead cover “Shakedown Street”. He really started to toy with the crowd during what I felt was the best improv jam of the set. With the crowd wrapped around his fingers, Keller continued to mesmerize playing “Ninja of Love”, G. Love’s “Back of the Bus”(with Outkast teases), “Keep It Simple”, and another cover with Cage the Elephant’s hit song “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked”. I couldn’t believe how well he transitioned in and out of each of these songs. This was by far my favorite part of the first set. It was one of the best executed portions of music I’ve heard in a long time. Plus, it was the most fun I’ve seen a crowd have in a very long time.
Keller then lightened things up a bit with his classic “Novelty Song”. Finishing out his masterful improv set filled with amazing covers with Sublime’s “What I Got”. It was perfection. He took the crowd on an epic journey and landed softly with the funkiest version I’ve ever heard of “What I Got”. It was refreshing and left me wandering what the second set would be like. The first set was musical perfection. My only skepticism was if he would be able to transcend or even replicate the mastery exhibited in the first set.
I wasn’t the only person who’s mind was blown. I quickly learned this conversing with other concert goers during set break. I blasted back inside The Bird and nestled back to my spot from the first set. I smiled when I noticed “Breathe” was the opener. A Keller Williams classic and definitely more well known than most of his other music.
As funky and dance inspiring as the first set was, the second started mesmerizing and very psychedelic. The genius thing was Keller was still churning out funky bass loops while melting the crowd with his spacey guitar improvisation. He was toying with was grooving. Keller continued on with the spacey riffs before blasting everyone off with a cover of Ryan Adams’ “Cold Roses”. It was gnarly. It was raw. I don’t know where he pulled that from, but he executed the song perfectly with the current flow of his show. Jamming straight into The Dead’s “St. Stephen”. Keller used every weapon in his musical arsenal. Improvising the song from psychedelic to funky, and even into a reggae-inspired portion of the jam. It was kind of jaw-dropping.
I didn’t think he could manufacture any heaver layered bass beats than in the first set, but he most definitely did during “St. Stephen”. It was a Deadhead’s dream. The crowd was raging once again. In Keller fashion, he dug deeper and wowed with another I stared doe-eyed at the stage, but everything below the waist was grooving. He took this groove into the next dance-driven cover. This time it was the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place(Naive Melody)”. It is odd to hear so many covers, but I wasn’t complaining. He sealed his masterful show with this cover. The crowd went bonkers, present company included. It was evident by the end of the song Keller was worn out.
The encore was pretty forgettable, only because he melted my face off with two incredible sets. It had been almost half of a decade since I’ve seen Keller own a crowd like he did that night. I met quite a few people who were seeing Keller for the first time. I can’t imagine such a wonderful treat. It was great presentation and great music. If you’ve never seen Keller I hope you take note of this review and go see him when he returns to Indiana in February. This time he will be at The Vogue in Indy on February 1, 2013. If you survive the apocalypse on 12/21 it is a must you attend. Keller will surely have that place going nuts.