THE historic State Theatre in Auburn, California is one of those art deco cinemas we don’t have in the UK, resplendent with its original “marquee” –the colourful neon frontispiece (pictured) and it is now the headquarters of the city”s burgeoning arts association.
It has recently had a refit, the central wall inserted to create a multiplex removed and restored to its former glory, with seats from Graumann’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for extra comfort.
It was there that Eliza Gilkyson and Nina Gerber (and her dog) played to a full house on Valentine’s Day. The songwriter from Austin and the Californian guitarist have played together many times, so Eliza was confident in changing the set list at no notice.
You realise how extraordinary it is to say “she’s a fantastic guitarist,” and it’s certain that had Ms Gerber been a man she would be spoken of in the same awed breath as Mark Knopfler, Roy Buchanan and Eric Clapton.
Her groove has been cut as a session musician, and she seems happy that way, providing a track that goes straight to the heart of every one of Gilkyson’s songs, smiling with joy and acknowledging the devoted pooch alongside the chair from which she creates those amazing sounds.
Eliza Gilkyson, daughter of award-winning film songwriter Terry, has had many of her songs covered by other, better known singers. Her subjects are political, honest, wry and engaging. They cover big subjects like the Bush dynasty’s take on warfare and personal subjects like her ancestor’s life during the War of Independence.
Saturday was Valentine’s so there were a good number of love songs, interspersed with anecdotes about getting older – something most of the audience recognised.
At Auburn, Eliza went out to meet her audience in the interval, asking them to write down their favourite songs for the second half. There were three times as many as the time allowed, even with the “encore” convention ditched in favour of another song. Nina and Eliza richly deserved their standing ovation, and promised to return soon to sing the rest of the songs on the list.
Eliza Gilkyson is a versatile and delightful singer whose flexible voice takes her soul out through the notes.
That will stand her in good stead for the next week, when she joins Mary Gauthier and Gretchen Peters for five concerts in their occasional Three Women and the Truth tour, at Berkeley, Felton, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica (two performances in McCabe’s Guitar Shop).
Follow the tour on the FTR.