Keller Williams | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Keller Williams

Sight DVD
Red Distribution

Intentional or not, Keller Williams' DVD, Sight, doesn't just offer his fans a handy memento for them to make do with until the one-man jam band plays in town again -- it's actually something of an advertisement for Mr. Small's Funhouse and Theatre. Filmed at the Pittsburgh concert venue, the sight of its façade at night and of its interior during the nearly two-hour long concert gives the building a homey look that seems just about right for the one-time place of worship. 

Asked during a recent phone interview why he chose to film his first live DVD at Mr. Small's, Williams explained simply: "I had heard from many different sources that it was a really fantastic place to film."

Indeed, nearly a dozen shows -- Rusted Root, moe., ekoostik hookah, The Juliana Theory -- have been filmed inside the venue.

"It's a very picturesque type of stage," offered Williams. "The idea of changing a church into a music venue, it just sounds cool without even going in there. Knowing Mike Sanders [of Opus One Productions] as the coordinator of it all, [having] worked with him -- it seemed logical. I was really happy with my choice."

He liked Small's enough, in fact, that other areas of the venue were incorporated into the DVD as well. He mimes "Freeker by the Speaker" while Rollerblading on the hardwood floor in front of the stage, which is inter-cut with the song's live performance. It's a minimal version of a video concept Williams developed years ago.  

Although he performs solo, his use of looping technology allows Williams to whip up full band arrangements in a piecemeal manner. The stage set-up finds him adding, subtracting and soloing on various stringed instruments. He uses his voice as another instrument, and, when necessary, includes soundman Louis Gosain on harmonica and vocals. What can often be an irritating method of listening to a song -- one that's being created track by track -- is here balanced by Williams' infectious energy and enthusiasm.

"Juggler" presents the full effect of this approach, and "Above the Thunder" becomes the highlight, explaining visually how Williams is able to expand his rhythm-centric method for songwriting purposes. He even displays his prowess on piano when the avowed Deadhead offers a heartfelt rendition of "Ship of Fools."

Williams' collection of tour films add another dimension altogether. Like his onstage persona, they depict a hyper-being: He messes around backstage, he drives in his mobile home and plays with his two dogs. Some of the films are used as bonus material (including an old high school clip of Williams leading a band through a Ramones cover at a house party), while other footage is edited between and during numbers.

"I just wanted to change it up, rather than have [a] whole show of just one guy onstage, doing stuff," Williams says. "It needed some different views, different angles, different sceneries."

If you're already a fan of Williams and his onstage mugging and "freeker"-ness, these snippets should appeal as well. For others, Sight provides an effective one-stop shop, displaying the very best traits of this modern-day song-and-dance man.

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