On 06/28/11, The Civil Wars returned to Utah. They brought along a young man named Rayland Baxter as the opening act. He is a quiet, humble man who simply plays his guitars and sings songs that you know are his own stories. Rayland has a very simple and sweet manner about him. He made jokes and told tales about each song. Rayland makes his music mold to you, and as a singing storyteller he teaches you that the best things in life are often the most simple and overlooked. Rayland is definately worth listening to. On a side note, he just opened for Grace Potter and is on his way to California. After Rayland’s enchanting songs, The Civil Wars took the stage.
For those of you who don’t know this band, it is a haunting duo made up of notable Christian artist Joy Williams and soulful John Paul White. The two began just a little over two years ago, and since this “holy union” had its debut, they’ve been capturing the attention of fans all over the world. I first had the opportunity to see the duo sing here in Salt Lake in January of this year. To say the least, they were stunning.
Joy Williams is your quintessential vocalist. She has a range that is just unexplainable. Throughout each song, she takes risks with harmonies that I’ve never heard any other artist do. Her counterpart, John Paul(who happens to look like Johnny Depp by the way) is right there with her. Watching these two perform is like being on a date with the two. They are both married to other people, which often shocks people, as they seem “made for each other”. The two have been perfectly machined for this act that they take on the road.
While on stage, The Civil Wars appear simple. Joy has a piano and a constantina that she occasionally plays, and John Paul a guitar or two. However, during songs like, “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “Falling”, you hardly notice that there is a crowd. It is the way that these two sing to you that really captures me. I was standing at the front of the stage, singing along to the songs while taking photos, and I felt like I was the only one in the room in a crowd of 300.
The gentile vocals of Joy and John Paul are not to be taken lightly. They often place a dark twist on familiar tunes, such as their performance of “You Are My Sunshine” in January. This current set included a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Disarm”. This was a very clean and melodic version of the song, and it really got to some in the crowd. The two also covered “I Want You Back”, the Jackson-5 tune of yesteryear. This is a pleasant and very “cute” song. Another highlight was “Billie Jean”. Not only does this song get the crowd to lively up, but it allows the lovely Joy to take on a “flirty” and slightly devious personality.
The on-stage chemistry between these two only adds to the aura of the show. The folky,dark, and sometimes nostalgic songs that come out of this relationship are sure to captivate fans of punk and rock music. This is music for every one. The Civil Wars stressed that they are independent artists, and that the fans are the ones that make this possible. Joy mentioned that “this is not a fact that we forget or take lightly”, and that impresses me. I hear a lot of acts say that, and I believe that The Civil Wars are sincere in this. If you have the chance to go to a show, pay the small ticket price of around $20.00, grab a loved one, and head to a night you won’t forget.
This show included a complete set, nearly covering every tune that the two have to offer. Please enjoy the photos I took: