On the heels of her new gospel record, Downtown Church, Patty Griffin has hit the road. The third stop on the tour was Denver’s beautifully ornate, 1,870 seat Paramount Theatre.
With support of her “dream” band, Buddy Miller, Doug Lancio, John Dedrick, Marco Giovino and Frank Swart, she brought down the house with rollicking, country spirituals and brought chills to the audience with the softer ballads.
Opening with “Standing,” an older cut from Impossible Dream before moving into “If I Had My Way” and “Wade in the Water”, Patty attributed the Monday night crowd’s energy to the full moon. “I can’t believe it’s Monday night, you guys are rocking,” she said.
Slowing down for a moment, they played the first single, “Little Fire” and then the powerful “Death’s Got A Warrant.” And slightly different from most of her shows, Patty left the majority of the guitar work to Doug and Buddy, instead focusing on the vocals and adding percussion with a pair of spoons.
Even though she’s a self-described “lapsed Catholic,” the collection of spirituals and gospel are from the heart. “They’re such great songs and I really enjoy singing them.” The album was recorded last year in Nashville at the Downtown Presbyterian Church and they brought a little piece of the atmosphere with them in the form of a backdrop printed with the same stained glass window from the album cover.
During a short solo section she added “I’m A Believer,” a Waylon Jennings tune that she discovered after the record was finished, and “Heavenly Day” from Children Running Through. “I happen to know that a whole bunch of people have had this sung at their wedding,” she laughed. “But I don’t tell people that I don’t know very well that I wrote this song for my dog, Bean.”
“This is foolhardy, I know it’s just dumb,” she laughed, inserting some humor into the evening as she told a story about her grandparents, their “famously insane” marriage and a photo of them from shortly after their wedding before “Get Ready, Marie.”
“My grandmother looks like, ‘Oh no, what have I done?'” Patty explained. “And my grandfather is this roguish, handsome man with a devilish look on his face. And I got to thinking about that, he sounds like a lot of my boyfriends, but she married him and they were Catholics so they hung in there for the whole duration, it was a long time. And I don’t really know much about him, he spoke French mainly and I was trying to think of who he was based on this picture, he looks like a little devil.”
There was also plenty of lighthearted banter between the band about Doug’s intro, Buddy’s album Written in Chalk at the “product table” and his guitar which he had purchased in Denver many years ago, “it has a cigarette holder because it’s Italian and it was the ’60s,” Patty said.
The gritty “I Smell A Rat,” the only non-gospel song from the record was squeezed between “Waiting For My Child” and “House of Gold” and the main set drew to a close with “We Shall All Be Reunited.”
As a special treat during the encore, they tried out the bluesy Fabulous Thunderbirds tune “Why Get Up” for the first time. “Thanks for indulging us, that’s a song for you to ponder tomorrow morning,” Patty said with a giggle.
And a tidbit for those attending upcoming shows: do not miss Buddy’s opening set. Not only is he a remarkable songwriter (not to mention his wife Julie’s songs are amazing as well) but the set gives Patty a chance to show off her versatility as a singer by adding harmonies to songs like “Shelter Me,” “Wide, Wide River to Cross” and “Gasoline and Matches.”
Buddy Miller Set List
That’s How I Got To Memphis
Worry Too Much
Wide, Wide River to Cross
Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go
I Want To Be With You Always (Lefty Frizzell)
Gasoline and Matches
All My Tears
Patty Griffin Set List
If I Had My Way
Wade in the Water
Death’s Got A Warrant
I’m A Believer (Waylon Jennings)
Get Ready Marie
Never Grow Old
Love Throws A Line
Waiting for My Child
I Smell A Rat
House of Gold
We Shall All Be Reunited
Coming Home to Me
Why Get Up (Fabulous Thunderbirds)
Up To The Mountain
Photos by Nichole Wagner