The smog has cleared.
"A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet" may hark back to Shakespeare but its meaning still rings true today. With Bill Callahan ditching the Smog moniker and releasing under his own name, a musical slant was offered on this old adage.
In all honesty, there was never anything to worry about. Smog was always about Bill and whoever else he played with, so any changes were minimal. The same golden yet croaky vocals filled the venue as Bill set about mixing the old and the new.
The standout moments from Bill's backing band came in the fiddle additions which stabbed and ebbed throughout the set and the drum work. It wasn't just about the drums though as the drummer added melodica, percussion and yearning string additions. Of course, re-inventing songs that are some people's favourites is never going to go down well with everyone but the band did a fair job at reinventing some of the "hits" that Bill has had throughout the years.
Unless he played a five hour set, there would always be folk upset at some classic Smog song's omission. However, 'Cold Blooded Old Times' found its way into the evenings proceedings and although slower in its performance, it maintained its majestic grace.
'Woke On A Whaleheart', Bill's latest album, has found him in a cheerier mood and the new material hints at a happiness that has been seemingly lacking from Mr. Callahan at times. Certainly the jaunty version of 'A Man Needs A Woman Or A Man To Be A Man' was delightful but the variety of the new album's material indicated the strength in depth of the songwriting on show. 'Sycamore' was strong and striding and 'Diamond Dancer' greatly benefited from the string additions hinted at earlier.
He is a law to himself, playing barefoot and with a guitar that seems too small for him, causing him to haunch over the mike. With a brief encore, hampered by a limiting curfew time in the venue, bringing the night to an early close, the only criticism to be placed on Bill was in comparison to his previous glories and performances.
With a late version of 'Rock Bottom Riser' that tugs at the heartstrings as much as ever, it proved that no matter the name, Bill could do it all. Let's face it, Bill could call himself anything he wants and his talent would shine through.