Too Ill To Sing- But Still a Rare Talent

Nanci Griffith/Birmingham Town Hall

Only a third the way into the Nanci Griffith set in Birmingham, and she announces she is ill and leaves the stage to be followed by her backing group, The Kennedys.

You can’t separate this quick exit- a case of a bad cold and a cough- with her two brushes with cancer earlier in her life and the audience, polite , gave her a dignified send off and then quickly left the city’s Town Hall and into the night.

What the Texan singer did deliver in a brief 30 minutes, before she succumbed, was her sweet and sharp voice, famously akin to a child’s or a small bird. Her songs, as ever, country -tinged ancd acoustic are wry, literate and, all the time, intelligent.

But she was a shadow of her physical self from the last time I saw her at the Symphony Hall when she dominated the stage with her performance, her stories and her personality.

Here she was in a mock sitting room complete with granny’s reading lamps and chairs. She sat and looked small and not well.

There isn’t much else to say. I wish her well; I wish anyone well who is ill and away from home.

What does come to mind, though,  is the last time I spent an evening in the refurbished Town Hall. It was when the Birmingham-based Destroyers  ripped the place up. Management stripped out the stall seats as a packed house danced like whirling dervishes dressed as Crimean War cavalrymen, Dorothy Parker flappers, dandies… just simply crazy folks having a great old time.

A stark contrast then to a real trouper who was too sick to get through half her act.

Richard Lutz