There’s no better way to end the weekend than with a low-key show at City Winery. Straight off the busy Varick and Vandam streets of SoHo, City Winery is as peaceful as an atmosphere can get with the wood-colored accented walls and pillars, the candle-lit tables and the soft lighting throughout the multi-leveled flooring. The uniquely fascinating set-up allowed for every kind of view of the stage and maintained the completely intimate setting. Beyond that, City Winery is a full service restaurant and wine bar during the shows, with quite an assortment of options. Being my first time at the venue, I was immediately stricken by the sense of wonderment a singer/songwriter must feel upon playing on that stage and being able to connect with the audience so well. I guess the connection between the audience and the artist depends on the day, but on Sunday, as Denison Witmer opened the show, it was clear we were in for a wonderfully mellow evening.

Denison Witmer charmed us all with his honesty and his melodies as he serenaded us with only his voice and his acoustic guitar. Even from the first song, it was clear that all we, as the audience, had to do was sit back, relax and listen. The slow pace of the songs, coupled with the clarity of the lyrics allowed for Witmer to leave us hanging on every word. His lyrics reflected just that; “A little slow so I’m taking my time, a little slow but it’s what I like.” A highlight from his set was “Constant Muse,” which was captivating due to its utter truth and poetic blissfulness. He spoke of his most recent album, self-titled Denison Witmer. The song he played from that album that most resonated with me was “Born Without The Words,” which he wrote for his three year old son. He said “the song is meant to be an encouragement to those who are in an in between place in your life.” It was beautifully simple and relatable. Before ending his set, Witmer did a wonderful impression of his best friend, and tour headliner, William Fitzsimmons. He strapped on a beard, beanie and glasses, and softly sang to us in a whisper-like fashion. After, he said, “If you don’t laugh, you don’t live long, right?” The crowd loved the impersonation, as Witmer ended his set with “You and Me,” engaging the crowd with his impressive looping skills. He harmonized with himself on both vocals and guitar, and truly ended his set on a memorable note.

William Fitzsimmons took the stage, delighting the patrons of City Winery. His dreamy serenades kept coming on, and it was an absolute joy to listen to him play. Fitzsimmons is a storyteller. With his slow pace and clear passion, he draws you in to his lyrics and delivers you a bedtime story. Not all of these stories are happy; in fact, most are not, but they peacefully and poetically describe events of his life in grave detail. His guitar parts were just as chilling as some of his lyrics. Fitzsimmons spoke about his newest album, Pittsburgh, which he wrote in the few days he went home to mourn the death of his grandmother. He talked about her support in all of his musical endeavors, and that he always wanted to write an album about home, but it never seemed like the right time until then. In his performance of “I Had To Carry Her (Virginia’s Song),” Fitzsimmons seemingly depicts the sight of his grandmother’s casket, and his last verbal exchange with her. In the chorus, he sang: “I’m sorry it took me two years to come home. I’ve been so busy. You should see how the kids have grown. I’ll tell the children how much you loved them. They’ll never know you; I had to carry her.” The lyrics burned me as he sang them. He brings light to tragedy in a touching way, as he sings about a relatable and sorrowful moment that many people endure after they lose someone. Even though the lyrics hurt, it felt good to hear them and to know that these emotions are at least somewhat universal; that loss and mourning are, unfortunately, part of life. Another track about his grandmother was “Matter;” a meaningful and gorgeous lullaby for her. Before he played it, he said, “This one is about letting go.” He preaches and sings the truth, and the audience was all ears.

Fitzsimmons continued to play beautifully in songs such as “Beautiful Girl,” where he showed that every ounce of his body felt the power of the lyrics he was singing to the girl in the song. The passion on his face was obvious and better allowed us to connect with him in the ever so perfect setting of City Winery. His fingerpicking was flawless as he played “Took,” and repeated the lyrics; “you took your breath from me.” You could feel every word, even as he repeated a lyric for a fourth or fifth time. Fitzsimmons joked about the tone and mood of most of his songs and said, “I don’t know your tolerance for sadness; probably pretty high if you’re at this show.” Everyone laughed and enjoyed his making light of the heaviness in some of the songs. Ironically, even the most painful lyrics to hear were sung so beautifully. He played “Just Not Each Other,” in which he repeated one of the most heartbreaking lyrics I have ever heard: “we will love again but just not each other.” I found myself starring off, trying to digest the pain in admitting those words. I think it’s a real gift that Fitzsimmons is able to deliver such pain and hurt in his lyrics, but do it in such a caring and loving way. It’s so genuine and truthful. I was truly taken by his performance of “Just Not Each Other,” and I hope he is aware of how many people had the same look on their face as I did, as he sang that tune. It was beautifully real and painstakingly lovely.

Fitzsimmons played a great set, and even covered “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys for a moment. He was able to joke and enjoy himself as he played his music. He kept the audience’s attention with his stories, whether they existed within his lyrics or in between songs he played. He demonstrated his ability to show imagery and paint a picture with his lyrics. He played both the acoustic and electric guitars flawlessly and emotionally. He demonstrated his vocal range, especially in his tender falsetto. The crowd clearly wanted more, as Fitzsimmons came on for a few encore songs, some of which included “Passion” and “Good Morning.” With “Good Morning,” he closed the show simply and beautifully, with a slightly bluegrass feel. There was purity about the performance that was cleansing, like a breath of fresh air. At one point in his set, William reflected on why he creates the music he makes. He said, “There’s a lot of pain and sadness in the world. Music is a way to feel less alone. That’s why I make music… I hope that it finds you there.” I would highly recommend to anyone that wants to sit back and listen to life’s troubles, in the sweetest and realest way possible, to become a fan of William Fitzsimmons.


Article: Alex Feigin



1 Comment

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