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On Sunday evening, a perpetual stream of concertgoers shuffled into Manhattan’s restaurant-venue, City Winery, in preparation for Pennsylvania-bred singer-songwriter, William Fitzsimmons. The venue, “strives to deliver the highest-end combined culinary and cultural experience to customers who are passionate in sharing wine, music and culinary arts”. As I took to my assigned seat and marveled at the beauty of the venue and its barrels of labeled wine and candle-lit semblance, I motioned to my waitress for a drink and beckoned her to come closer to avoid disturbing the middle-aged couple glaring at Fitzsimmons, quietly over my shoulder. This is the essence of what makes his shows particularly exciting. It is the penetrative expressiveness of his music that bares with it a level of intimacy most artists can only attempt to replicate—Fitzsimmons masters it.
There’s a sincere level of grace in the way he interacts with the audience. His pacing is slow and stoic—But in more of an honest and reserved way, far from displeasing or boring. Soft chuckles and a narrow range of emotions from sad to sadder fuel him like it fueled the fire of Elliot Smith or currently fuels Iron & Wine’s, Sam Beam. And he acknowledges this. Reminding the audience: “If you’re here in this room, you probably have a high tolerance for sadness”.
His style of guitar playing is far from unfamiliar to us, though others before him do not hold it all together as well as Fitzsimmons does. This is partially due to the receptive nature of the audience, who would be masticating pizza crust and prawns if they hadn’t been so mesmerized by him.
It still remains though, that Fitzsimmons had to compete for the room’s attention due to the infinite distractions from servers and guests constantly roaming the venue, finding their seats and having their own conversations. In the City Winery, a hushed conversation with the person sitting over your shoulder could disrupt the entire show. There were moments, not many, when I truly believed Fitzsimmons would pause his fingers and ask the audience to quietly simmer down, but most of the time the audience acknowledged their volume and silenced themselves by shoving more food into their gaping face holes. And I feel like Fitzsimmons might not have spoken up anyway. He’s too content. Too lenient and understanding that his music might not translate well enough to an audience other than the one that consumes him through their headphones. Nevertheless, regardless of the possibility of distraction during every moment, and regardless of his preferred musical medium, his melodies managed to shine through to the back of the venue where I placed myself.