GILLIAN WELCH ★★★★1/2
Palais Theatre, February 5
Of course she had cowgirl boots under that lovely long dress of vintage lace. It was the way she unveiled them – hitching up her hems to tap-dance a percussive counterpoint to Six White Horses – that had us roaring like a country wedding party.
By that time of the night, it was almost possible to overlook the boggling dexterity of Dave Rawlings' simultaneous banjo and blues harp technique. So it was, in between buckets of old timey charm and staggering musical agility, that Melbourne fell in love with Gillian Welch all over again.
The couple's 2005 gigs have remained legendary here for weaving a rare kind of spell with the simplest tools: unplugged, tuned by ear, entwined with eerily telepathic harmony and Rawlings' endlessly questing guitar lines.
The only album they've since released, The Harrow and the Harvest, brought most of this year's highlights, including the fatalistic ebb of The Way It Will Be and the chilling episodes in purgatory, Scarlet Town and Tennessee.
The pair's death obsession was a running gag between songs but it came in many alluring shades, from the sweetly murderous lull of Dark Turn of Mind to the graceful redemption of Elvis Presley Blues, a testament from the gospel of rock'n'roll as sacred, to this crowd, as any hymn.
Woody Guthrie, Johnny and June Cash and Townes Van Zandt had each been roped into Welch and Rawlings' big sepia panorama by a third rapturous encore. It's hard to imagine better company in heaven.
Gillian Welch has added a final date to her Australia tour, at Melbourne's Festival Hall on February 20.