I’ll be honest; I attended the Joy Williams concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles with a few reservations. I thought, “How can Joy Williams recreate the magic that The Civil Wars had on stage?” Turns out Joy Williams didn’t need to recreate anything because she possesses her very own kind of magic. I arrived to the show feeling hesitant and I left feeling inspired, the night was a success from beginning to end. The concert consisted of songs from her new album Venus, a Duran Duran cover, and two throwback tracks from her time in The Civil Wars. Not only was the show a treat for your ears but also Joy Williams performed in front of a backdrop, which projected different images throughout the night. As she called it, the show was definitely a “visual extravaganza”.
The night began with the perfect introduction to this new part of Joy’s life “What a Good Woman Does”, a song off of her new album Venus, explains that she hasn’t lost herself even through everything else that she has lost. “I haven’t lost my voice without you near me/ And I can tell the truth about you leaving/ But that’s not what a good woman does.” Immediately Joy was captivating, her voice captured you but her movements are what kept your attention. Every single song was met with a full body performance; she waved her arms in the air and danced along to the rhythm of each song.
Her new sound is difficult to pinpoint but when mashed together in a musical set it somehow all makes sense. “The Dying Kind” has a mystical feel to it, the vocals are drawn out and the electronic beat mixed with the graphic projecting onto the backdrop made for a magical experience. “Not Good Enough” begins softly and slowly builds into this drum-heavy, up-tempo beat. The honesty in her lyrics are bound to connect with anyone taking notice “Am I asking too much/Are you all out of love/ Did I set it on fire?/ And burn it all up”
Eventually Joy gave the audience what they were undeniably waiting for; she performed “The One That Got Away” a few songs into her set and later in her set performed “Dust to Dust” both of which were originally sung when she was part of The Civil Wars and both of which were originally performed acoustically. This time around she added segments of drum machines and electric beats; it still sounded beautiful but definitely different from the original versions. I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on these wonderful songs, however these new versions don’t quite compare to the raw emotion of the originals.
She closed off the set with her lead single “Woman Oh Mama” off of Venus. When introducing the song she stated that it was about “owning the mess and fullness and the ripeness of what life is”. It is wonderfully refreshing and emotional to see someone so at home on the stage. Every note that goes out of her vocals chords travels all the way through to her fingertips. Her joyful dancing is captivating and when watching her you are completely aware that she is feeling every word she is saying. Joy Williams has a beautiful voice, which you can gather from listening to her previous albums, but it is otherworldly to see this woman perform live.
For those of you feeling skeptical about this new sound, after watching Joy Williams perform her new material live it is undeniable that she is definitely headed in the right direction. Her smile throughout the concert was contagious and I’ll admit to getting emotional while listen to “Woman Oh Mama”, which completely caught me off guard by the way. The emotion in the way she sang the song was relatable and empowering. I, for one, am absolutely ready for the ride that her new album, Venus will be taking me on. Venus drops on June 30th and this concert was the perfect introduction to the album.
Music set list: “What A Good Woman Does”, “The Dying Kind”, “Before I Sleep”, “Sweet Love of Mine”, “Not Good Enough”, “The One That Got Away”, “One Day I Will”, “Until the Levee”, “Ordinary World” (Duran Duran cover), “Dust to Dust”, “Woman (Oh Mama).”