Chris Mills/Sally Timms; June 14, 2009; Schubas
“I never thought I’d see the day when I open for Chris Mills,” Sally Timms quipped at the beginning of her set tonight. True, many people were initially introduced to Chris when he served as her guitar player in the 90’s. Since then though he has gone on to release a string of critically acclaimed though not exactly chartbusting records that have solidified his reputation as a thoughtful songwriter. I still don’t know if Chris was playing with Sally the one time I saw her with a band that didn’t involve Jon Langford. It wasn’t until later that I fell in love with the Silver Line and the City That Works band that performed it. I haven’t missed many shows in a tri-state area since then.
In fact, I got the early word on this show from Chris himself when I was out in New York for a perfect weekend in March that included a Wrens show on Friday and a Chris show on Saturday. He was going to be in Chicago for the wedding of college friend David Nagler who played keyboards and did the string arrangements for Chris’s last couple releases. He played “Love in the Time of Cholera” at the ceremony, which he claimed drew some puzzled looks from guests who didn’t know his music. He elected to do tonight’s show solo, which was fine with me. The last several shows I’d seen had been band shows, and I was ready for just Chris and his acoustic guitar. And a good show it was.
Without a band he wasn’t limited to the songs they knew, and had in fact been accepting requests via Twitter all afternoon. Since I don’t even completely understand what Twitter is, nor do I feel that I want to, heck, I’m not even on his mailing list, I hadn’t contributed to the set list. But it didn’t matter, it was an excellent career-spanning set that ranged from “Fresh Young Mouth” (from his first full length release Every Night Fight For Your Life) to his newest song, the unreleased “False Mustache.” The biggest surprise of the night was a completely reworked “Dancing on the Head of a Pin,” what used to be a heart-wrenching ballad was now a surprisingly uplifting tune. I don’t always approve of musicians radically altering their songs (unless you are Bob Dylan), but this was a terrific alternate version.
“You should have asked for ‘Dry Eye,’” he said to me after the show. I guess I should have, but honestly I was happy with the set just the way it was. Maybe next time, you know, when I figure out Tweeting.
Sally, on the other hand, enhanced her half of the co-bill with a full band. The five person multi-instrumental backing band which added quiet and pretty instrumentation to her songs have a name of their own, but I just can’t recall what it is. She let them show off their own material on a couple instrumentals while she lurked at the back of the stage, twisting prettily. Despite her tart tongue and wicked sense of humor, Sally possesses one of the loveliest and purest voices in alt country, and I often find myself transported during her sets. Tonight I was a little sleepy after a week’s worth of shows, but still enjoyed her seemingly short set. I had intended to ask her if she would do a house concert sometime, but chickened out. Instead I mentioned it to Langford, who chuckled, “I see all boyfriends have already played there,” when I listed the musicians he knows who have already done one. Yes Jon, I think it is your turn now.