Touring behind the 20th anniversary of her country/roots rock masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams played New York City’s Beacon Theater on Wednesday (Nov. 7). While seeing a seasoned road warrior like Williams at the intimate, plush Beacon Theater is always a delight, the show was particularly historic – never before has Lucinda performed Car Wheels songs with Roy Bittan and Steve Earle, both producers on the album, on stage at the same time. The E Street Band’s Bittan manned the organ throughout the night, and Earle popped out to provide harmonica support and vocals on a few tunes.
But as much as the songs on Williams’ 1998 magnum opus cut you to the core, the music was just half of what made her anniversary concert so special. On a normal tour stop, you’d hardly call Lucinda voluble. But playing her career-changing album start-to-finish seems to have pushed Williams into a more reflective place (and perhaps her in-depth retrospective earlier this year with Billboard helped). Prior to each track, Lucinda, warm and self-effacing, went into detail about the genesis of the song — which frequently meant sharing stories of “unrequited love” and the complications that come with that.