Bill Callahan with Matt KinseyBill Callahan accompanied by Matt Kinsey at Substation. Photo by Maria Clare Khoo

SINGAPORE – The American singer songwriter and guitarist’s concert held at the Substation could not be a better venue for an intimate evening with the stars. Callahan is on a tour around Asia and has made a stop in Singapore to perform works ranging from his latest album Dream River (2013) to Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (2009).

Leslie Low from Singapore’s homegrown band The Observatory, who inspired the local movement of the late eighties, opened the show by singing one of his most popular songs to date – Big Road. The song reflects the honest approach of an adult life and questioning the ‘what ifs’ of life.

Despair from his album No Such Thing as Ghosts, can be a song which one finds hard to swallow for a Sunday evening concert; where Monday blues bound to crawl onto your morning sheets. Indeed the lyrics were poignant and of personal experiences, that “love is rare”, “While another one dies alone, while we’re busy buying a flat, living in Singapore…Where does it all go?” Repeating heart-rending verses: “No there is no heart here” and “Just a certificate of entitlement.”

Callahan began his gig and setting the tone of the concert with one of his most known song from his album Apocalyse, Riding For The Feeling. Beginning with a goodbye song, it reflects how things could have been with hints of regret and melancholy. Callahan, also known as ‘Smog’ in the early ‘90s, sang about nature and its inhabitants; reflecting on human nature, its courses of soft punk rock intersperse with cadenza-like interferences from the electronic guitar by Matt Kinsey. Callahan also belted other songs from the Apocalypse album including America!, Drover, and Universal Applicant, just to name a few; expressing the natural world and poignancy of human confession, of frustrations, imperfections and hope. With Jim Cain from the 2009 album, one the most authentic songs ever written so far, is a moving rendition of a poetic and transparent expression. The sparse and repetitiveness of the songs draws a meditative mood that in comparison with his previous albums, has said and expressed more with less words.

His baritone voice, rich and resonant in tone, transgresses the notion recognising and seizing the little things of life, the difficulty of it and restlessness – lots of it.