photo credit: @thecedar
Under a blood-red spotlight, Oldham began his set with an accapella version of an old murder ballad “The Banks of Red Roses.” Oldham’s voice is startlingly beautiful and strong; hearing it unaccompanied by other instruments was almost jarring. In fact, before the show, a fan who was originally seated in the second row from the stage moved a few rows back for fear that the close proximity to Oldham’s pipes would be too intense.
Uptempo numbers “Easy Does It” and “I Am a Floozy” showcased some of Oldham’s affectionately funny lyrics: “I’ll go with anyone who smiles… when it comes to love I am a floozy.” My favorite track, the gorgeous and hummable “Beware Your Only Friend,” features more sly commentary from Oldham: “Picture us lounging/just sitting and listening/and loving what we hear/that has never happened/we both flail too much/to let the other near.”
For the memorably titled “You Have C*m in Your Hair and Your D*ck is Hanging Out,” off of 1996’s Arise Therefore, Oldham explained that he had co-written the song with a friend from Iowa and that it had gone untitled for years. With the song “Werner’s Last Blues to Blockbuster,” Oldham expressed his love of the word “blockbuster” and lamented that the now-defunct video chain had claimed it (clearly, he’s having the last laugh on this one). When an audience member yelled out “Redbox!”, Oldham joked that there might be more to the dvd kiosk’s title than is let on (communist vagina?)
Off-color humor aside, when Oldham starts to sing, you can’t help but get lost in the songs. On “You Can’t Hurt Me Now” (from 2006’s The Letting Go) Oldham’s honeyed whisper and wail filled the venue with a bittersweet longing and on “The Master and Everyone,” (2003’s album of the same name) a hushed reverence.
With his warm, wavering voice, the meditative strum of his acoustic guitar or the intriguing tales of love and self of which he sings, Oldham truly mesmerized the huddled masses watching him from their seats in the sacred space of the Cedar.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy at the Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis (12/16/13)