Belly Up Tavern
Solana Beach, California
August 28, 2008
At some point, every dedicated fan should have the opportunity to watch their favorite artist(s)—no matter how big or famous—perform from five feet away. Particularly in a small, intimate venue that captures every stray guitar lick and nuance in the voice. There’s nothing quite like it. I had that opportunity Thursday night as I dragged an unsuspecting friend (and new fan) to see the luminous and beautiful Patty Griffin perform at a sold-out Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California. Before a couple hundred adoring fans, she put on a show I will not soon forget.
On the way to the show my friend asked me “What kind of music does Patty sing?” My first response was “Well, she’s labeled Americana.” Blank stare. But really, how does one define Patty’s style? I read this definition of Americana or roots music online the other day. It applies perfectly to Patty and I couldn’t have summed it up better: “American Roots music isn’t country, pop or rock, though it’s not ashamed to borrow from those styles. It’s not bluegrass, gospel, folk or Cajun, though there are elements. To its practitioners, it’s the authentic heart of the heartland, songs that could only come from here, sounds that remind us who we are. Soul music, if you will.”
Like many others, I was introduced to Patty the songwriter before I was introduced to Patty the singer and performer. Patty has had the blessing or curse (depending on how you view it) of having been famously covered by a number of big names—Dixie Chicks (“Top of the World”, “Truth No. 2″, “Let Him Fly”, “Mary”), Miranda Lambert (“Getting Ready”), Martina McBride (“Goodbye”), The Wreckers (“One More Girl”) and Emmylou Harris (“One Big Love”, “Moon Song”), among others.
In recent years, however, Patty has emerged from the shadows, so to speak, to stand on her own as a vibrant singer and performer, and one of the most respected songwriters in modern music. In 2007, Patty was the Americana Music Association’s Artist of the Year and her latest gem, Children Running Through, captured Album of the Year. Everyone’s favorite collaborator, she frequently performs with Willie Nelson, and she went on tour earlier this year with Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin and Buddy Miller.
On this particular night, however, she stood alone; and really, despite her excellent 3-piece backing band, Patty was all we needed.
When Patty walks on stage, she appears so ethereal and delicate you almost hold your breath until the first lyric falls from her mouth. Can she really belt out a tune with the same soulful passion as she does on her albums? Oh yes, she can. Her first note was like a punch in the gut. And from there on, Patty held the audience in the palm of her hand, performing a wide range of songs that could be defined as nothing other than “soul music.”