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The synagogue is located on the northern edge of Chinatown in Washington, D.C. and opened more than a century ago in 1908. It still holds regular services, in addition to concerts and readings. (NPR Music)

Bill Callahan, Live In Concert

Nov 14, 2013

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For this performance, Bill Callahan and his band performed more than a dozen songs, including a cover of the 1950 Percy Mayfield song "Please Send Me Someone To Love." The synagogue provided the perfect space to showcase Bill Callahan's beautiful but deadpan baritone voice, as he performed highlights from his latest album, Dream River. Bill Callahan and his band performed at the historic Sixth And I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2, 2013. Bill Callahan, performing live at the Sixth And I Synagogue in Washington, D.C.

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This was a perfect night. The setting: A magnificently refurbished synagogue from the turn of the 20th century, with a stunning domed ceiling, menorah's flanking the sides of the stage. Add to it a minimal band of guitar, bass, drums and the beautiful, if deadpan, baritone of singer and guitarist Bill Callahan.

It was a cool autumn night and the audience was rapt, so enveloped in the warmth of Bill Callahan's voice. In some ways, his delivery is dry and unemotional. But it's so stripped and unadorned it feels comfy and welcoming.

Bill Callahan's band included Matt Kinsey on guitar, Jamie Zuverza on bass and Adam Jones on drums. The song selection for the night drew heavily from Callahan's wonderful new album Dream River. Toward the end of the night Callahan played songs he originally did under the Smog moniker back in the 1990s. But the biggest surprise - and the one that felt most connected to the venue and the night - was Callahan's cover of Louisiana-born Rhythm and blues singer Percy Mayfield's 1950 song "Please Send Me Someone to Love," which had Bill singing the lines, "Heaven please send to all mankind / understanding and peace of mind / And if it's not asking too much / please send me someone to love."

It's a beautiful message that interweaves romantic love with hope for social justice, which left me with an unexpected fuzzy feeling. It's not something I'd expect with a Bill Callahan show, and made it all the more powerful.

Set List

  • The Sing
  • Javelin Unlanding
  • Sycamore
  • Spring
  • Small Plane
  • Drover
  • Seagull
  • Baby's Breath
  • Ride My Arrow
  • Summer Painter
  • Please Send Me Someone To Love
  • America!
  • Winter Road
  • Rock-Bottom Riser
  • Say Valley Maker


Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Photographer: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; Host: Bob Boilen; Producer: Robin Hilton

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