SALLY TIMMS opening for GIANT SAND at Lee's Palace, April 9. Tickets: $13.50. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNN
before starting the show, chi- cago-based singer/songwriter Sally Timms of Mekons infamy solemnly asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for the recently departed Queen Mother. It was a show of respect from the last person you'd expect to have any sympathy for the monarchy, but the audience obliged nonetheless.
"Not that I have any feelings for the old bat," clarified Timms 60 seconds later to the sound of puzzled gasps and indignant muttering, "but we play really quietly, and I thought if we started off like this it might help keep voices down during my set."
Judging by the grumbling that continued through her first few songs, accompanied by Giant Sand's Joey Burns on vibes and acoustic guitar, Timms had badly misread the audience.
There were no bottles thrown or shouts of outrage, but the room got a few degrees chillier with each successive royal jab. She'd best have forgotten about the audience participation bits right then, because no amount of coaxing was going to get these arms waving in unison.
To her credit, Timms won back some favour with her passionately sung renditions of the charming country lullabies from Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments For Lost Buckaroos (Bloodshot). Toward the end of her opening spot, you could almost forget the karaoke-like oddity of Timms singing to backing tracks cued up on a portable CD player.
When the Sand's John Convertino and Howe Gelb stepped up for the rollicking finale, it made you wonder why they couldn't have tinkle-tinkled jazzy improv-style behind Timms for her entire 40-minute set.
It was up to Giant Sand to salvage the night, and the extended ensemble, filled out with a three-piece string section and conch tooter, had no difficulty making a party of it with their customary desert dementia.