For the first in three sold-out nights at the Cedar Cultural Center, Dan Wilson dove deep into the songs on his new album and a few other fan favorites for a show titled “Words and Music.”
True to the title, Wilson eased into his mini-residency by weaving his set together with detailed stories about different times in his life. True to a promise he made in an interview before the show, he dedicated about a third of the show to talking, and his stories got funnier and more interesting the longer he let himself go.
“I used to keep a dream journal,” he explained at one point, then diverged into a long sidestory about his mother’s disappointing attempts to document her own nocturnal discoveries. (“One night she had what she described as a philosophical revelation,” he said, “but when she went to read her journal the next morning it said, ‘Always take the rearmost Cornish hen from the grocery freezer.”) After a series of punchlines, the real a-ha moment came: the Semisonic song “Secret Smile” actually came to him in a dream, and he was surprised at how “awesome” it was when he revisited it the next day.
Other stories delved into his career as a co-songwriter, including time he had spent with Carole King (which preceded “One True Love”), the Dixie Chicks (“Easy Silence”), and Adele (“Someone Like You,” a highlight of the set). Wilson admitted that Adele was unfamiliar with his work when they got together to write her chart-topping ballad, but she had told him, “My mum loves your songs.”
Dan spent most of the night performing as a duo with multi-instrumentalist Brad Gordon, who added some structure to the acoustic guitar-driven songs on the piano, synth, melodica, and harmonica. (“You never see someone play harmonica and piano at the same time,” Wilson noted, clearly impressed.) Gordon was also a fine singer, and met the challenge of tackling the mostly female, high-register harmony parts from the tunes on Wilson’s new album, Love Without Fear.
For the encore, Wilson brought out his old Semisonic bandmate Jake Slichter to play tambourine on the Neil Young cover “Out on the Weekend” (you can watch a studio version of that cover in the video below) and handle the now-famous keyboard part on “Singing in My Sleep.” Slichter flew in from Brooklyn for the shows, and will be back Thursday night to read from the memoir that focuses on his time in Semisonic, So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.
As an added bonus for attendees, Wilson handed out intricate, “illuminated” set lists that he illustrated himself:
- Dan Wilson performs in the Current studios. On the day before the release of his upcoming solo album, Love Without Fear, Wilson plays an in-studio session at The Current and chats with Mary Lucia.
- Dan Wilson talks about the success of “Closing Time” and the changing industry. “I got an email from a fan who heard it on the radio. And the title of the email was ‘It’s over.’”