Wil @ The Biltmore -- 11/14/09

Sometimes when you haven't seen a performer in a while, you build them up in your memory, remember them as being more awesome as they actually are. I was really hoping that was not the case with Wil. There was a two year span, after discovering him when he opened for Wide Mouth Mason, where I saw him at least seven or eight times, with the last time, sadly, being a little over two years ago. He's been back a few times since, less frequently, but I always seemed to have terrible luck when he was here, never able to go or just missing him. Back then, I was adamant about Wil being one of the best live acts going, so I was very excited, if a little trepidatious, to see him again.

First out, though, was The British Columbians, who I had seen earlier this year when opening for the double bill of Arkells & The Waking Eyes. My opinion of them hasn't really changed much since then. They were Perfectly Acceptable Music; nothing all that great, but nothing terrible by any means. Their sound is kind of a.... country-metal, if that makes sense, heavy on the blues riffs. There wasn't much variety, though. The whole set sounded like one long song. They still had limited stage presence as well, with the stage falling silent a few times between songs while they set up for the next.

Then not too long after, it was time for Wil. As many times as I've seen him now, I am still amazed how his guitar does not burst into flames mid-show. The guy plays with an unparallelled intensity that, on many occasions, leads to broken strings -- which his wife then turns into jewelry. He was pretty much as amazing as I remembered, hitting the stage with just himself and drummer Jason Cook. They were minimal in numbers but absolutely enormous in sound. There've been a lot of places calling him "Canada's best kept secret" and I completely agree with that, as well as him being one of Canada's best live musicians. The only reason more people don't adore this man is simply because they haven't seen him live.
The set focused mostly on his last album, though he threw in a few new songs, including The River, which is a song that he's played live for years and is finally going to be on the upcoming album (January). The new songs were pretty good and made me all the more excited for the upcoming album. They even handed out a card which directed people to a website to download three demo's from the new album.
The new songs seemed a bit slower, but with most of the older songs, especially Big Life, Both Hands and Always With Love were played with pure energy and with his hand strumming the guitar so fast that most times it was a blur.
The highlight of the set, as hard as it would be to pick, would have to be near the end when he did Honey Pie. He goes absolutely insane in the song, and it had everyone clapping along, and doing a call-and-answer chorus of ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh's. Few times before have I seen the crowd at the Biltmore going as crazy. The one thing that disappointed me, though, is that he was light on songs from his first album, Both Hands -- by which I mean he didn't play Spitfire. In some of his early shows he would start and end the set with that song, so maybe it's just run its course.

By the end, all of my pre-show fears about me remembering him more legendary than he actually was were horseapples. If ever you have the opportunity to see this man live, I couldn't recommend it more.

Don't Let me Down, Big Life, Wedding Dress, The River, Baby Baby (?), Long Kiss Goodnight, Both Hands, If You Want Me To Know, Always With Love, Dance With The Devil, Tell You Twice, Honey Pie, By December.