DALLAS Patty Griffin was tearing through The Strange Man, a gospel side from her underappreciated 2010 LP Downtown Church, when it happened.
Stomping her feet, her red hair whipping through the air, lost in the moment, one of the acoustic guitars beside her tipped over, seemingly of its own volition, and hit the stage.
Unperturbed, Griffin grinned, pointed at the felled instrument and cracked, “That’s the power!”
She was referring, of course, to the Man Upstairs, but she might as well have been talking about herself.
Saturday night, at a cram-packed Kessler Theater, Griffin demonstrated the full potential of top shelf songcraft, of ideas deftly conceived and masterfully executed.
Wrapping up five months of touring behind her latest record, American Kid, before heading home to her adopted Austin, Griffin showed a few signs of road weariness around the edges (like totally ignoring the shouted requests from the the reverent audience), but delivered a 90-minute stunner nonetheless.
Backed by the ace trio of Craig Ross (who produced Kid, among other Griffin albums), David Pulkingham and John Deaderick, Griffin worked through much of Kid, an album written as her father was near death.
She shared a few anecdotes along the way, such as the riotous inspiration for Get Ready Marie and the heartbreaking genesis of the showstopping Wild Old Dog.
Griffin remains one of a rare breed, able to easily move from uplift to tragedy in the space of a single song, without making the transition seem forced.
During a brief, mid-set solo turn, Griffin sat at a piano, and drew out the wistful Irish Boy, before picking up an acoustic guitar and tearing into No Bad News, perhaps the closest thing Griffin’s catalog has to a folk rave-up.
Watching her hold a capacity crowd in rapt silence — Griffin’s last trip through town was three years ago, at the antiseptic House of Blues; the Kessler, which she complimented for its beauty, is a far better fit — one couldn’t help thinking: now, that’s the power.