The energetic, vivacious pair of Joy Wiliams and John Paul White repeatedly showed why 2011 is likely to make them much better known, and fast. The duo will spend most of next week playing hard-to-see shows at Sundance, but Salt Lake City was given a first-class preview of what oh-so lucky moviegoers and celebrities have in their immediate future.
Using only John Paul White's battered Gibson acoustic as rhythm for much of the gig, the two rolled through a folky, energetic set that was virtually a non-stop highlight. Although the crowd was wowed by each of the show's 11 songs, the highest points came with a scintillating cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and the group's own "My Father's Father." The Civil Wars repeatedly wowed the crowd with their air-tight harmonies swooping over, around and through the acoustically-dialed in venue. Keep in mind while there is a free downloadable "album" on the band's website, their official debut, "Barton Hollow," doesn't drop until Feb. 1. Not surprisingly, they lit up the title track, just as they did last week on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
How warm was the reception? Warm enough that Williams was actually started by the loud roar that followed the show's opener, "Tip Of My Tongue." The band is less than 3-years old and "Falling," - the first song the group penned together - still sounds new and was warmly received. Another cover ended the night, Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End of Love." The audience then sent the duo off to Park City with a standing ovation.
Earlier, Provo's Parlor Hawk opened the show and was also warmly received. The band's thoughtful, indie-folk went over well. Some of the 32-minute set's highlints included "Lark," and "Second Skin."