Monday, March 25, 2013

"...You can clap now" - Vic Chesnutt performing "Everything I say"

Some concerts can be life changing experiences. The venue is right, the artist and the audience straight away create a bond, the music flows and you feel you are about to witness something magical, something unique. It doesn't happen so often, to get all the parameters right, but when it does you feel it. From the first seconds.   

I am not going to say a lot about the late Vic Chesnutt. Paralysed at the age of 18 he discovered that he could still play some simple guitar in the wheelchair to accompany his beautifully written songs. He released 17 albums during his short career and even though he was not so well known to the wider public, he influenced musicians from around the world who mention him as their prime source of creative inspiration. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. produced his first two albums but Vic Chesnutt was never meant for mainstream success.  
Filmed for the music series "the neighbors dog", this concert took place in the living room of a Canadian house. There is no stage, no extravagant light show and no distance separating the audience from Vic and his musician friends who included members from Godspeed You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion. There is nowhere to hide in a setting like this. It's raw. Bryan Carroll (from All Music Guide) described Vic Chesnutt's music as a "skewed, refracted version of Americana that is haunting, funny, poignant, and occasionally mystical, usually all at once". The song "Everything I say" as performed in this crisp and beautifully filmed extract is a perfect confirmation of that statement. Chesnutt cracks a joke at the beginning and then starts playing as if there was no tomorrow. An electrifying performance where everything is balancing on the turn of each note. From a silent strum of the guitar to the distorted "wall of sound" attack, there is such a release of musical energy that the feeling you get is one of almost mystical exhilaration. 

In classical music concerts, a knowledgeable audience will wait for the final note to become inaudible and then still refrain from clapping and cheering as the last feeble vibrations of the musical wave are absorbed in silence. The same reverence can be witnessed in the audience's reaction at the end of this song. There is a long pause and Vic releases the tension with a simple "you can clap now". 

This show would be one of Vic Chesnutt's last performances caught on film.

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