Krauss and band simply masterful
Onstage, there were what looked like someone’s bedsheets hanging out to dry. Once they were taken down, a video projection was displayed in about a quarter of the available space until the curtains pulled slowly across the rest of the back wall almost as an afterthought eight songs in. With simple stagecraft like that, there was nothing to focus on but the music. And Thursday night at the Citi Wang Theatre, Alison Krauss & Union Station gave a performance strong enough to make the audience forget about the laundry.
It may be Krauss’s name that precedes the band she has played with for nearly a quarter of a century, but she was generous with the spotlight. The second song featured a vocal by guitarist Dan Tyminski, while the third was an instrumental that gave everyone a chance to display their impressive soloing chops. Halfway through the concert, Jerry Douglas got the stage to himself to display his dobro mastery.
Where Tyminski sang most of the songs of hardscrabble living (such as the stark and arid “Pastures of Plenty’’ and murder ballad “Wild Bill Jones’’), Krauss got almost all of the heartbreak. She was breathy and restrained on the soft “Paper Airplane,’’ and while the lovely “Ghost in This House’’ could have been a simple, slow country weeper, she delivered it gently, even when she seemed to give full voice to her soprano. Explaining her penchant for sad songs, a smiling Krauss said, “We’re sad people.’’
But it wasn’t simply a matter of Krauss and Union Station showcasing their individual strengths. As befits their long history together, they seemed to sing and play as one voice. The four-song encore focused around a single microphone, giving “When You Say Nothing at All,’’ with just Krauss and two guitars, a sweet and lovely intimacy. Tyminski and Douglas may have begun “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’’ by themselves, but when the band joined midway through, the song became full-blooded, throbbing bluegrass.
As they shifted to the soft, openhearted, and achingly sexy “Dimming of the Day,’’ the video projection followed suit, changing from slowed-down images of a tornado and lightning to sunlight carving through the clouds. Some of the stagecraft spoke volumes after all.
Opening band Dawes played lean and arty Americana that was reminiscent of Wilco and content to nestle softly in the ears.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.