Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings
Carolina Theatre, Durham
Monday, April 28, 2014

For some of us, boredom is as an invitation to blow off steam after being busy for far too long. For Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, who recently decided they were bored sitting at home, it’s an invitation to hit the road. On Monday night, their tedium-induced tour brought them to Durham’s Carolina Theatre. Bless their boredom.

Welch’s songs are so emotionally wrought that any evening with the pair could be somber and sad, but Monday’s concert, divided into two sets, was anything but. Welch and Rawlings kept it light as they wove deftly between joy and sorrow. The pair skipped through Welch’s impressive catalog with ease; in fact, by the time they had moved from opener “Scarlet Town” to set-one-closer “Red Clay Halo,” the night was halfway over. But it felt like 15 minutes

That first set included a song Welch and Rawlings learned from Doc Watson, who always referred to the duo as “kids.” Their rendition of “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor” felt poignant on the heels of MerleFest, particularly two years since the loss of one of North Carolina’s greatest.

After a brief break, Welch and Rawlings returned for a powerhouse second set, where a searing “Revelator” preceded the much more mellow “Six White Horses.” Welch kept time with hand claps and clogging steps she learned from bluegrass bassist Mark Schatz. The crowd loved it, especially when Rawlings goaded her to try the “fancy” step she’d learned just for the tour. Rawlings then took the lead with his own “I Hear Them All,” which shifted seamlessly into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

The encores delighted, too: “Look at Miss Ohio” preceded Townes van Zandt’s “Snowin’ on Raton,” but the crowd really lit up with the pair’s rousing take on the gospel standard “I’ll Fly Away.” I walked out just a few minutes too early to catch an unamplified version of the classic murder ballad “Long Black Veil,” hoping to catch guitarist Steve Gunn at The Pinhook. I’ll regret that one for years.

At one point Monday night, Welch said they used to joke that they were on the front of the “banjo wave” invading popular music, but it wasn’t such a joke anymore. Still, even as something-like-folk songs climb various charts, Welch remains laps ahead of most folks still swimming in her wake. But to be honest, that’s not such a bad place to me.
Set List:
Scarlet Town
Orphan Girl
One Morning
Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
The Way It Goes
Elvis Presley Blues
Dark Turn of Mind
I Want to Sing That Rock And Roll
Wrecking Ball
Red Clay Halo

No One Knows My Name
Hard Times
Down Along the Dixie Line
Six White Horses
I Hear Them All/This Land is Your Land
Wildwood Flower (quickie/tuning)

Look at Miss Ohio
Snowin’ on Raton
I’ll Fly Away

Long Black Veil