Kasey Chambers, like much of the wildlife in her native Australia, is somewhat of a rare breed. On one hand, she’s a fairly straightforward confessional singer/songwriter, but on the other, she’ll never willingly shed her overt love for traditional country music. Such a stylistic dichotomy makes it especially difficult to pinpoint exactly where she fits into the grand scheme of things—if anywhere at all. Chambers’ isolation in this No Woman’s Land, is what inspired the confused state of mind explored in the brilliant “Not Pretty Enough,” from her Barricades & Brickwalls album. This pivotal work asks the question: Is there room for contemplative female artists (such as Chambers), in mainstream music? While The Business continues to fumble for a nice, neat box in which to confine Chambers, this concert crowd—at least—had no problems accepting her apparent artistic misfit-ness, braving a rainy midweek night to welcome her with open arms.
In between performing old favorites and introducing new songs from her latest, Wayward Angel, Chambers consistently charmed fans with her warm stories, like the one about trying to keep her two-year-old son in check (which is physically impossible, she claims). Another time, Chambers fondly recalled running into Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin at an awards show. For the faithful, this evening of stories and songs often felt like quality time spent with an out-of-town visitor.
Chambers first came to the music world’s attention with the strikingly confessional ballad “Captain,” which appeared on her debut. I never get tired of singing it, she said at the Fillmore show, right before encoring with the tune. The strength of that song, however, was just the tip of the iceberg—over the course of the night, she also performed new songs like “Pony” and “Hollywood,” which displayed her refined songcraft.
On spunky country numbers like “We’re All Gonna Die Someday,” she came off like Loretta Lynn, but leaned closer to the jingle-jangle rock of The Byrds on “Cry like a Baby.” She even threw in a cover of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time,” which featured lovely harmonies from Chambers and her backing musicians, a group including her dad, Bill, on almost every guitar imaginable (including dobro and pedal steel).
Opener Holly Williams, (yep, the infamous Hank Williams’ granddaughter) may have strong country-music bloodlines, but the sounds she creates are much closer to the somber singer/songwriter vibes of James Taylor. Accompanied by a pianist, and playing acoustic guitar for most of her brief set, Williams was dead serious from start to finish. Her repertoire included “Would You Still Have Fallen,” a ballad dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction, and “Sometimes,” which speaks about the continuing quest to be a perfect mate. While her performance was solid, Williams could have taken a clue from Chambers and thrown in a few more lighthearted moments to make the medicine go down smoother.