Keller Williams with Moseley, Droll & Sipe, Barrymore Theater, Madison, WI- 9/24
Some things just aren’t the same anymore: Lee jeans, not quite Levis, a bottle of Yellow Tail wine, not quite Robert Mondovi. You can add one more – Keller Williams playing solo compared to life with the WMDs. Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to Keller’s solo genius that I can’t help but feel something is askew when hearing him with a backing band. This show at Madison, Wisconsin’s fabled Barrymore Theater did have its moments but overall it was a bit of a letdown. Something wasn’t quite right all night long. We heard four great musicians on stage but not always a band.
Striding onstage strumming the opening notes to “Thin Mint,” anticipation was high for a fun night. With the second song “Flying,” Keller sang welcomes to the crowd and thank yous to the opening act, Cornmeal. The sandwich of “Moving Sidewalk > Cadillac > Moving Sidewalk” proved to be a great snack, offering up the band a chance to nibble from Keller’s buffet. “Apparition” was perhaps the tastiest jam of the night led by super drummer Jeff Sipe, whom Keller introduced with his Aquarium Rescue Unit handle, “Apartment Q258.” Sipe swung hard steering the rest of the WMDs through territory as jazzy as anything you’ll likely hear. The Beatles’ “I Dig a Pony” was a choice cover, although guitarist Gibb Droll swung and missed at the solo, trying too hard to be atonal, which instead came across as confused. The band bounced back by fulfilling a fan request to “Let Keith sing,” as Moseley switched to guitar, with Keller on stand-up bass, for “Where We Are,” which was warmly received.
In the last third of the twenty-six song set, the band finally gelled with great versions of “Hunting Charlie”, Sally Sullivan” and “Best Feeling.” With a night’s worth of sweat and smiles, the show closed on a high, proving that four great musicians can’t be held down for long, even if, like Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, it wasn’t quite the same.