Wednesday night, Grammy-winning folk sensations The Civil Wars performed for an enthusiastic capacity crowd at the Ogden Theater in Denver.
Despite rainy conditions outside, the line outside the Ogden extended a block and a half down Colfax as fans arrived early to get the choice spots in the auditorium. The show opened at 8:00 p.m. with Milo Greene, a new five-piece indie-pop act from Los Angeles who will release their first CD in July. Although mostly unknown to the crowd, the band’s 40-minute set was well-received.
When Milo Greene concluded, the stage was cleared except for a keyboard, a few guitars and a couple of microphones—all the set-up needed by The Civil Wars, who perform as a strict duo with no backup band.
In a day of multi-instrumentalists and elaborate light and video displays for live shows, it is truly remarkable for two vocalists to come on stage with sparse instrumentation and lighting, play mostly down-tempo songs, and completely captivate a crowd for over an hour. This is exactly what happened when The Civil Wars took the stage around 9:15. If there were ever two vocalists who were meant to sing together, Joy Williams and John Paul White are those two people. Their harmonies, stage presence, humor and overall chemistry were thoroughly entertaining throughout the evening. Add extra points for the fact that Williams is eight months pregnant and was reaching the high notes in Denver’s rarified air. (Performance-wise, the audience would have never known it was an issue had she not mentioned the oxygen tank she had backstage.)
One of the high points of the night was a performance of “I’ve Got This Friend,” which White described as one of their “wimpier” songs, but which turned out to be a fun, spontaneous audience participation competition between men and women. Other fan favorites included “Poison & Wine,” “20 Years,” “Kingdom Come” (from the Hunger Games soundtrack), and of course the duo’s most popular hit, “Barton Hollow.” Icing on the cake was a playful, folky cover of “Billy Jean,” which Williams and White performed as one of their two encore songs.
Although The Civil Wars have previously appeared in Boulder, this was the band’s first show in Denver, and the sell-out crowd was proof enough that duo’s premiere Denver show was long overdue—but well worth the wait. The Civil Wars will no doubt need a much bigger venue the next time they come to town.
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