There are a few of things you can count on when going to a Keller Williams show: a lot of instruments, a bunch of energy, some amazing covers, and at least one or two special appearances by the sound guy. Everything else is left to chance.

On Saturday, October 4, Keller played a frenetic, yet up-beat show at Columbus, Ohio's Newport Music Hall. Dancing wildly across the stage from instrument to instrument, Keller made sure that he was having as good a time as anyone else that night.

"Two Dingalings" made an early appearance and got the crowd laughing and singing along. With vocal brass and triangle accompaniment on top of several guitar loops, Keller kept a light and cheerful vibe while the crowd got settled in. Once security decided to open the balcony to give the crowds more room to dance, banners were hung reading, "Welcome Keller." Smiling faces beamed down from above as territories were marked for the evening. Keller fed off of the Saturday night vibe in the crowd and announced, "It's gonna be a party tonight" early on. Dancing through vocal raps and long keyboard solos, a dark and funky undertone maintained beneath his otherwise upbeat tunes. With deep and raspy vocals, he fluctuated from down and dirty to light and airy with ease.

"Apparition" was a highlight of the evening. Glow stick wars ignited and flew as the crowd chanted along. The echoing vocals gave the tune a spiritual energy that eventually had Keller just watching and smiling at the five-minute plus lightshow, that his music had inspired. The tune's reggae undertones made an easy transition into Peter Tosh's version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode." Changing the lyrics a bit as Tosh did, Keller made the song his own while mixing his own funky rhythm and slow and dragging vocals into the reggae inspired cover.

Surprises came in all forms throughout the evening: A horn solo from the sound man, Blue-Man-Group-style PVC piping slapped against his knees as percussion, gongs, shakers, and even the occasional nonsensical chanting. Keller was in rare form on this Saturday night... pulling out all of the stops and adding all the bells and whistles, literally. The first set took a tribal turn once the reggae set in. The percussion pipes hitting against his knees came in all colors and tones adding several layers of sound to the mix. Looped with everything from birdcalls to tambourines, the pipes backed the vocals with an almost Middle Eastern vibe. The crowd finished off the chorus and clapped along until the set-break lights came up.

Set 2 was a crowd-pleaser, mixing covers with a few welcome originals. An inspiring "Scarlet Begonias" into "Fire on the Mountain" opened the second set and sent the crowd reeling. The soundman's horn solo was spotlighted by a handheld light that Keller controlled from the stage, proving again how little this "One-man-band" needs to put on an amazingly diverse show. Battling the real horn solo with some vocal sax, Keller and his sound guy played a funky duet during one of the Dead's best combo tunes.

Adding a little bluegrass to the evening, Keller continued with some original tunes. His simple and crowd-pleasing lyrics elicited major responses while he sang lines like: "Let's go out and get us some donuts" and "we're lucky we got this room to dance and yell and move around." "Chillin'" was a welcome surprise for the audience, giving the crowd a taste of some of Keller's earlier repertoire.

Now wrapping up a show with Bob Marley is always a good idea. With a full balcony and a packed floor, "Kinky Reggae" echoed from floor to ceiling as Keller presented his version in a slow and sultry style. Thanking the audience and nodding to his welcome sign, Keller made it known that he too had a great time in Columbus. Ending at roughly 11 pm after a solid three hours of music including a short set break, the show's end brought the energy back up with a final dance driven encore.

One man, 11 guitars, and more than 15 various instruments, put on quite a show at the Newport Saturday night, and it was both everything and more than we had expected.

Words by: Image by: Sam Hanford
Image by: Gene Felice
JamBase | Bay Area
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[Published on: 10/10/03]

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