Lil Ed Williams strode onstage at the UM - Flint theater with little fanfare tonight, and with his three side men, the Blues Imperials, played nonstop, exquisitely craftsmanlike riffs for an hour and forty minutes. His signature red fez bobbing, with a merry "Ya'll doing okay so far?" after every second song or so, Lil Ed worked his way through a classic delicatessen of tasty guitar plaints and satisfyingly familiar narratives about screwing up, losing women, hopping trains and desperately picking up odd jobs.
(Blues lyrics can slide into the ludicrous, of course --the most hilarious, well, the worst -- metaphor on tonight's playbill being "I gotta check my woman's fluids; somebody else is sticking a dipstick in her oil pan..." concluding, in wounded pride, "a good dipstick is hard to find." Oh lordy -- though maybe the auto theme was handpicked for Buick City) Myself, I prefer the simple, articulate, desolate "my woman left me and it's nobody's fault but my own..." which was how the best song of the night played out.
But Lil Ed didn't mess around, barely talking between songs, just calling out a key before launching into each musical entree. The most flamboyant he got was toe-walking on his red Converse sneakers and a mercifully brief foray down the aisles near the end of the show. What the enthusiastic, almost all-white, almost all late middle-aged, almost-full house crowd got was damn good music, a gift at the end of one of the best spring days of the year after one of the worst winters of the 21st Century. Flint isn't the only place that can benefit from the blues cure these days, but it sure is one of the places that needs it most.