Lucinda Williams brings art, grace to ELLNORA

I’ll admit — it felt odd being an outlier in a crowd of predominantly 50- and 60-year-olds. But after seeing Lucinda Williams perform at ELLNORA on Saturday night, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of her before.

Williams began her career with the release her album “Ramblin” in 1979, featuring a blend of rock, folk and country music. Although her unique style didn’t bring immediate success, her skill and raw talent didn’t go unnoticed. She won a Grammy award and performed with music legends, such as Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, later in her career.

Having performed for nearly 35 years, Williams is no stranger to the stage — and it showed Saturday night. Although it was a subdued performance, her voice and simple acoustic pluckings were enough on their own. The power of her voice enabled her to express emotions with grace and charisma that spoke to the soul. It was the beautiful union between her clear and piercing tone and fragile falsetto that brought about an emotional response from the audience. Although the audience was quiet for the most part, it was more of an act of respect and admiration for the artist. This was especially true during the song “Blue.”

“It was emotional. It was moving. She’s just amazing as an artist and moving as a woman,” said Nadia Berkovich, a first-time ELLNORA attendant from Urbana.

Her lyrics aren’t mere reflections, but stories of life experiences and the nature of humanity. Because of this, listeners are able to feel a personal connection to her music.

“She is able to say a story and a story about her song; we get a sense of her character,” Berkovich said. “It’s the way she gives herself.”

But this is not to say that the audience was silent the entire time. During upbeat songs, the audience danced and cheered as much as they could while sitting down. Audience favorites seemed to be “Fruits of My Labor,” “Concrete Barbed Wire” and “Out of Touch.”

Perhaps this is the value of Williams’ talent: no matter the tempo, style or content of the song, listeners are able to find art in her work.

To me, the overall performance was a work of art. It was a beautiful sight to see a group of musicians — Williams, bassist David Sutton, drummer Butch Norton and The Wallflower’s guitarist Stuart Mathis — join together as one unit. For an hour and a half, I witnessed not only the talent of Williams, but the knitting of harmonies, melodies and rhythms of multiple professionals.

Each musician played with such ease and grace that I became an instant fan. But all of this could not have happened if it weren’t for Williams. Throughout the night, she was the main orchestrator and foundation of the performance. There wasn’t a moment when she wasn’t in sync with her bandmates. I found this to be the most inspiring and admirable aspect of Williams as an artist, and as a person.

The night ended with two standing ovations, one after the final song of the performance and the second encore song. Williams brought character, soul and beauty to ELLNORA and ended the night with these two words: “Love and peace.”

Stephanie is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]