Holland's demeanor fit the tone of the show perfectly; slightly self-deprecating and casually funny. She tuned up frequently during the set, using the lulls as an opportunity to pay her respects to Chicago artists Grey Gersten and Mavis Staples. During one such moment she told an amusing anecdote about meeting Lou Reed and having him express his pleasure with her dedication to being in tune. While Reed has a reputation for being a bit of a snarling prick (all due respect), Holland comes across as nothing but down to earth. She was quick to point out that a therapist friend of hers once suggested that if she ever was taking herself too seriously that she ought to listen to a Wesley Willis record.
Eventually her backing trio departed and Holland played a few songs solo, including a touching rendition of her song "Devil's Sake." The song is one that any hesitant lover can relate to, with lines like "only an angel sent from above can tell me if you're the devil or the one I should love. Where is that angel?" During the number Holland wandered from the mic to the edge of the stage and delivered the most captivating and sincere whistle solo since Guns n' Roses' "Patience." The set wound down with several covers, including a sweet stroll through Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown." It both fit the mood of the show and Holland's vocal abilities perfectly, leaving the crowd buzzing and applauding. The set ended with the singer paying homage to another Texan, Townes Van Zandt, with a cover of "Rex's Blues."
Jolie Holland returned to the stage for her encore to a warm applause, armed with a homemade violin. After a few attempts at a song she was clearly unfamiliar with, she apologized and placed the instrument back in its case. The crowd was not dissuaded and was rewarded with a jangly tune from her 2008 release The Living and the Dead, "Palmyra." As she sang "and I'll dance at your funeral if you dance at mine" the crowd clapped and hollered, clearly committed to dancing anywhere that her music might be playing.
Check out more show reviews:
Cibo Matto at Lincoln Hall
Local H, Hollows, Liturgy at West Fest
The Rosen Association, Chants at the Whistler
Briar Rabbit at Double Door
Jason Webley at Panchos
Not in the Face, Moon Furies, Man Your Horse at Memories