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July 25, 2012 | 5:12 p.m. CST
It was 102 degrees on Tuesday evening. The field was fried and the sun was still scorching, but that didn’t stop Lucinda Williams’ fans from sweating it out for her concert at Stephens Lake Park.
The gates opened at 6 p.m., and although Williams didn’t take the stage until two hours later, the Grammy Award-winning musician made it worth the wait. With the help of Amy Cook, the folk-pop opener, Williams chilled out audience members with her honest lyrics and calm demeanor, which set the perfect mood for an outdoor venue.
The concert began at 7 p.m. when Cook took to the stage with her electric guitar in hand and full band as her backup. Like the main act, she proved to have relatable lyrics with simple beats perfect for swaying.
During the opening performance and in between shows, people from the audience grabbed free water and cooled off under the misting tent. They also got their food fix from Pepe’s of Columbia or Jamaican Jerk Hut and a cold beer from the alcohol stands catered by The Blue Note. Local organizations and businesses, such as Peace Nook, Columbia Climate Coalition and the Missouri River Communities Network had their own booths near the concession stands to educate the audience on sustainability.
There were only a handful of listeners cluttered around the front of the stage while Amy was performing. However, as it grew later in the day and closer to the folk, Americana, country singer’s debut, more people — mostly in their 40s and older — took their spots in the scratchy grass or VIP tent. The audience reclined on scattered blankets and lawn chairs or danced on the spacious field. Every seat was a good seat; wherever listeners were located, the stage could be seen and the music could be heard.
Williams performed in a black blouse with the sleeves rolled up and light-wash jeans. Her blond hair was disheveled in a cool and carefree way. The music undoubtedly matched her artistic persona, and her band helped set the mood of each song with the harmonica, hard-hitting guitar or drum solos. With her raspy, alto voice and acoustic guitar, she sang of love, life and the realities an average person must face. Through the raw lyrics of heartbreak and hope, listeners got a glimpse of this independent woman and her story.
Williams gave a small sample of new material with a song called “Bitter Memory.” “It’s fun to play new songs but nerve-wracking at the same time,” Williams said at the concert.
After an encore of “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “Blessed,” and “Get Right With God,” she ended the night by thanking the audience and advising MU to save the Missouri Press. She explained she felt strongly about the issue because her father founded the University of Arkansas Press. “That would be a real shame to lose,” she says. Her last message was, “Don’t give up the good fight.”
Thumper Entertainment’s business venture might have set precedent for outdoor concerts at this section of Stephens Lake Park in the future — and hopefully it did. The location was a new, fun way for people of all ages to attend a live concert in Columbia. Maybe next time it won’t be so hot.