Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

A clever Keller Williams mesmerizes concert-goers

If Keller Williams isn’t your favorite acoustic-folk-bluegrass-funk-loop-guitar player out there, then you’re looking in all the wrong places.

Paradise Rock Club was the place to look on Friday night as Keller took the stage for his one-man show surrounded by a drum machine, multiple percussion instruments and more than ten guitars and basses hanging on the wall behind him.

Williams has been touring the country for over fifteen years, offering unique performances that largely center around a looping device which allows him to build fully-fledged songs from the ground up ‘-‘- right on stage.’ Often starting with a chord progression or guitar riff, he adds bass, scatting rhythms, and drumbeats to provide the foundation for his clever and often goofy original songs and reworked covers.

The show delivered with a set list showcasing a wide range of genres, from a bluegrass version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ to the all-bass funk rock of ‘Novelty Song,’ during which he asked the audience to ‘tune out the words and just focus on the bass.’

The cover songs were clearly chosen with the intent of creating sing-a-longs with the audience, with a Tom Petty section that included ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ segueing seamlessly into ‘Breakdown,’ and a second set that included ‘The Joker’ by Steve Miller Band.

Williams demonstrated impressive control over his looping machine throughout the night, seamlessly building new instruments onto perfectly timed loops and stopping and starting songs at will. Often, he would create a rhythm and solo over it with an effects-laden electric guitar, weaving trumpet or saxophone lines into the fabric of his songs.

Williams has had a long-standing affiliation with the jam band The String Cheese Incident, having signed to their SCI Fidelity label often opening for them or playing with them as The Keller Williams Incident while on tour. With this background it was unsurprising that the best songs of the night came out of his collaborations with String Cheese.

‘Sing For My Dinner,’ a bluegrass-tinged song recorded on his album ‘Dream,’ and the show-closer ‘Best Feeling,’ a song off the album ‘Breathe,’ on which String Cheese was his backing band, stood out for the incredible guitar parts that Williams laced throughout the songs.

As the night drew to a close, a looped, all-percussion version of Sublime’s famous ‘What I Got’ had the crowd singing out into the streets and ended a mesmerizing night of music.

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