Keller Williams brings a new supergroup to Memphis

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Keller Williams & the WMD’s
New Daisy Theatre
Memphis, Tennessee
November 7, 2007

"Supergroup" is a term that’s thrown around any time a group of musicians of any sort of stature get together.  However, the term really fits the WMD’s, the band Keller Williams put together in the wake of his stellar 2007 release, Dream.  Williams, Keith Moseley (String Cheese Incident), Gibb Droll (Gibb Droll Band), and Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit) have a chemistry on stage that is only matched by what they bring to the musical table, making the oft-cliched term appropriate.

wmd_071107_1.jpg Dream found Williams in front of a multitude of artists over the course of the album.  The WMDs (except for Droll) showed up at one point or another on the album, and much of the band’s material played on the tour is gleaned from the record.  The set opened with "Casa Quetzal," and the band showed a clear comfort level from the beginning.  

Everyone knows about Jeff Sipe – he’s a beast, a proven commodity whose drum kit mastery is well respected by both fans and musicians.  He put on a veritable clinic at the New Daisy. 

However, the "secret weapon" of the WMD’s is Gibb Droll.  One of the more underrated guitarists in the world, Droll is a ringer.  He is absurdly skilled at his trade, and should be a "jamband" household name.

With a setlist filled with Keller originals and covers, the WMD’s put on a great show.  Even with a full band, soundboard ace Lou Gosain still finds spots to join in on harmony vocals like when he works with Williams, as he did on a solid version of "Above the Thunder." 

The band unplugged for a great acoustic take on the Grateful Dead’s classic "Bird Song," easily one of the highlights of the night, and closed out the first set with "Fuel For The Road."

The second set was definitely stronger than the first, and it kicked off with "Killer Wave," while the video screen behind the band flashed extreme sports clips.  Williams has reinterpreted Yonder Mountain String Band’s "New Horizon" once again; he recorded with his Keller & the Keel’s project, but the version with the WMDs is something to behold. 

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"People Watchin’" followed, and they played a great version, but one that pales in comparison to the track Williams and Sipe recorded on Dream with Bela Fleck and Victor Wooten. 

The same can be said for "Ninja of Love;" it was solid as a Keller solo track and is good with the new band, but the version on Dream with Michael Franti is much better.  The second set closed with a stellar version of "Play This," and the band left for a brief moment before returning for the encore.

Bands tend to peform Memphis-oriented songs while in the Bluff City.  The WMD’s were no different, and Keller really nailed the vocals on Elvis Presley’s "Heartbreak Hotel."  The subsequent show-ending Ratdog-esque version of Harry Belafonte’s "Women Are Smarter" was a great capper on the evening.

Keller Williams has found his niche as a solo artist, but frankly, his time in front of a band offers something more.  He’s still the same quirky performer he always is, but with the help of top-notch musicians, it’s taken to a whole new level – one that delivers in a way that Keller never could by himself. 

 

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