Patty Griffin made an unusual decision for a touring musician, deciding to stay off the road this summer to focus on new music. Given that she lives in Austin, a city where temperatures reached more than 100 degrees for 40 days in a row in July and August, it was a choice she came to regret.
“I made a conscious decision to stay home this summer and write. That was a mistake,” she said Monday.
Fortunately, Griffin is away from the heat and back on the road with guitarist David Pulkingham and percussionist Michael Longoria. The trio and stopped by The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., for a sold-out show Monday after playing this past weekend at the Annapolis Songwriters Festival in nearby Maryland. Performing 15 songs in just over 90 minutes, the two-time Grammy Award winner showed again why she is one of the top songwriters of her generation.
Following opener “Truth #2,” a hit for The Chicks, Griffin blazed through cuts from her nine studio albums as the group hit its stride with “Up to the Mountain,” the show’s sixth song. After a stunning “Mother of God,” an audience member in the intimate club setting told Griffin that she was bringing her to tears.
“I’m messing up your mascara? My work is done,” Griffin said to laughter. “That’s the best compliment ever.”
Following a solo “Mary,” Pulkingham — in many respects the show’s MVP — provided lovely support on “Standing” and “Move Up,” another gospel song that prompted a great line from Griffin.
“To be clear, I do love Jesus,” says Griffin, who won one of her Grammys for a Buddy Miller-produced gospel album. “But you don’t want to be exclusive or exclusionary with anyone.”
The show continued to move along with “Shine a Different Way,” which drew some of the night’s loudest applause, then “Luminous Places” and set closer “No Bad News,” which prompted an audience member to say she should run for president.
“You don’t want Patty for president. I can’t pay my bills on time,” she said.
Griffin saved some kind words for her opening act, Scott Miller, who played his opening set just a month after breaking his leg in three places while working on his cattle farm in Swoope, Va. Griffin, who duetted with Miller on “Angels Alive” several years ago, referred to him as “one of the great bards of all time.”
Miller showed that during his 45-minute solo set, during which he entertained the audience with between song quips about his accident. Miller, whose career started with The V-Roys in the mid 1990s on Steve Earle’s E-Squared label, thoroughly entertained the audience, both with his songwriting — “Chevy Citation,” “Epic Love,” I Made a Mess of This Town,” “Someday Sometime” and the aforementioned “Angels Alive” were all highlights — and with a decidedly barbed sense of humor.
“She kicked me on the inside of my knee,” he said of the accident, which occurred with a cow he’s breeding. “I didn’t kill her. I named her Tanya Harding.”
Another line: “Ahh, cows. Revenge is best served medium rare.”
Then: “I’m lying there on the ground and lots of things were going through my head. One was that I’m not going to miss those dates with Patty Griffin.”
I’m glad I had a date with both of them on Monday night.
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: Patty Griffin opened for the Chicks in Virginia