The Civil Wars Charm a Sold-Out Show at the Culture Room

The Civil Wars
with Zach Williams and the Bellow
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, February 4

Better than: Staying home on a Saturday night and watching the movie Once.

The success of the Civil Wars can be seen as happening overnight, but, with or without the help of Grey's Anatomy, there is no denying the raw and intricate talent bursting from the duo.

The musical match of Californian Joy Williams and Southern good ol' boy

John Paul White is certainly a curious one, but it works. Having met three years ago when both musicians were on the brink of leaving music, it's almost naive to say fate didn't bring them together. And despite

the members being married -- not to one another -- there is a chemistry

that exists between them that is mesmerizing.

As the lights went dark and the duo appeared on the minimally set-up

stage, the room erupted with cheers, hollers, and screams. Between the

sold-out attendance and the excitement flowing through the room, you'd

think She & Him or the Postal Service were taking stage. Joy

Williams in a simple black tuile knee-length dress, and John Paul White

in a suit -- complete with bow tie -- planted themselves behind two

microphones at the front of the stage.

Opening with "Tip of My Tongue" set the sweet yet gloomy tone for the evening, as they moved into several other harmonious, call and response ballads like "Forget Me Not" and "From This Valley." 

"There's so many of you here," said the wide-eyed Williams as she peered into the crowd appearing to be smiling at each individual fan. "That doesn't suck at all."


the tear-inducing nature of the duo's material, Williams' playful

dancing -- albeit quite awkward at times -- and warm-hearted smile kept

the evening's overall mood light and airy. The duo's haunting and ethereal voices filled the room, and fans rarely missed a beat as they sang along like they were part of the band. Although the two rarely spoke much in between songs, when they did it was to express large amounts of gratitude and adoration for the fans in attendance.

"Ya'll are a rowdy bunch," said the gruff-voiced White. "So we're going to get rowdy for you."

Launching into the album's title track, "Barton Hollow," provided a much-needed jolt of energy into the duo's mostly depressing, melodic set.  However, it only lasted for a few moments. It was the calm before the storm, as the Civil Wars led the crowd back into a tornado of sadness and broken souls with "Falling," "To Whom It May Concern," and the gut-wrenching "Poison and Wine."

"We're pretty sure you didn't come here to be cheered up," said guitarist White. A true statement indeed. But, even after 70 minutes of

heartbreaking and emotion-filled songs, you'd never know it from the

enamored looks on the crowd's faces as they left the concert. 

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: 30-somethings, country-lovin' folk, girls singing off-key, couples making out

Personal Bias: The show should have been at Revolution.

Overheard in the crowd: "That girl's calves are like Kobe, would melt in your mouth." -- The creepy bartender about a female concertgoer.

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Betsey Denberg