Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Todd Patrick’s back from Mexico, and last night our fearless local promoter hosted two very intimate, very sold-out, back-to-back shows for Will Oldham–touring on behalf of his Bonnie “Prince” Billy alter-ego–in Williamsburg’s sweaty Monster Island Basement. It’s something of a coup to get Oldham/Billy in such a small space, for only $12 a person, considering that last time Kentucky-born singer-songwriter played New York was at the Apollo and tickets were more than 40 bucks.
Last night, at the eight o’clock early show, Billy showed up in all-yellow in the darkened stony room, accompanied by collaborator Emmett Kelly of the Cairo Gang, who played guitar and carried high-pitched, sinuous harmonies. For the duration, our “Prince” performed sans microphone, or any instrument besides the occasional
harmonica melodica, singing mournful ballads from his newly-released album, The Wonder Show of the World. It was transcendent. Oldham has the commanding presence of a stage actor; his movements are evocative, animated, and precise. A lot of the time last night, he looked like he was performing a monologue rather than singing a song. Meanwhile, the jam-packed crowd sat shoulder-to-shoulder on Monster Island’s concrete floor, but, from what we could tell, the room was too busy being enthralled by Oldham to really mind.