The primary component that either makes or breaks a great jam band is chemistry between members. Should a group attempt to cut loose and embark upon extended minutes of improvisation, every instrumentalist must be coupled together in a unified state of mind that keeps the songs grounded rather than letting them unravel into endless nonsense that only brings applause from the audience not merely at the end, but because of the end.
That’s an irrelevent concern for Keller Williams. He is his own band. What Williams lacks in numbers on stage he more than makes up for with personal skill and admiration for his craft.
Audience members at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City were buzzing well before 8 p.m. when the show was set to begin, excited by the promise of “an evening” with one of the most established and well-travelled one-man shows in the current music sphere. Arriving on stage precisely on time, the shoe-less multi-instrumentalist strutted out to greet the audience with his trusty guitar pounding out a driving rhythm that set the tone for the night. Intent on building the mood, Williams rushed no aspects of his show, choosing instead to allow the set to rise in small increments before peaking shortly after the brief intermission. In fact, for first 15 minutes the entire audience remained seated, admiring Williams as he sang a soft tune. Then, as if beckoning them to join him, Williams broke away from the microphone for an extended guitar break, and the audience rose from their seats to meet him at the front end of the stage.
Williams’ set list blended together in an Inception-style song-within-song format riddled with original tunes and covers. Tales of The Price Is Right and run-ins with Fiona Apple swelled throughout the theatre as audience members nodded their heads and bobbed their knees to the rhythm. Using electronic drum machines, Williams creates an interesting juxtaposition between traditional elements and modern technology, a combination rare even in today’s music scene. Furthermore, Williams’ experimentations with guitar sounds are clearly a marker that set him apart, particularly his electric guitar, which was tuned to sound like a violin and a set of steel pedal drums at separate times throughout the night.
Clocking in at just over three hours, Williams managed to fill two 80-minute sets with a wealth of originality and more than enough energy to keep the crowd dancing well into the night. Capping off the night with crowd-favorite “Freeker By The Speaker,” Williams sent fans home on a high note after creating a wall of sound that would be impressive even for the most seasoned of collectives.