Monday, April 23, 2012

Dave Barnes @ Marathon Music Works (Concert Review)

Since singer/songwriter Dave Barnes named his newest album Stories To Tell, it would make sense for the subsequent tour to feature his hilarious monologues, anecdotes and crowd interactions popping up between his soulful, R&B-flavored acoustic pop songs. This was certainly the case last Friday night as Dave held court in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd at Marathon Music Works, by far one of Nashville’s coolest concert spaces. Switching effortlessly between a confident smooth operator while singing and a bust up laughing entertainer while telling stories, Dave kept the crowd engaged and wanting more through the spaces that are normally referred to as the “between song lull.” There were none of those Friday night as the crowd either sang along, laughed along or “aww”ed along to everything that came out of Dave’s mouth. Dave played a great mix of new and old songs, garnering the loudest crowd background vocals on fan favorites “Until You,” “Carry Me Through,” “Someday, Sarah” “Little Lies” and new song “White Flag.” In fact, during most of these numbers, Dave and most of the instruments would drop out completely and let the spirited crowd take a chorus or two. Dave was backed by a talented full band of electric guitar, bass, drums and keys that supported his songs with lush layers that allowed them to dynamically rise and fall at the perfect spots. Not just there for background effect, each instrument had a role to play as the keyboardist led “More Than A Man,” the drummer added some subtle percussive oomph to “Grace’s Amazing Hands,” the bassist made “Chameleon” dance and the electric guitarist added some killer solos to “Someday, Sarah” and “Little Lies.”
While the full band moments were exciting and sonically sound, there’s no doubt that Dave is one of those guys that can command a crowd with just his voice and a guitar. He played one of his love songs, “Nothing Fancy,” as a solo number and the crowd, many of them clearly on dates and in the moment, cuddled and swayed along. “Grace’s Amazing Hands” was also played in a mostly unaccompanied fashion, save for the addition of a tasty hand drum. During these moments and the storytelling interludes, Dave controlled the crowd with an amazing mix of hushed singing and exuberant talking. Whether he was introing “Mine To Love” with a funny story about trying to pick out his new son Ben in the hospital nursery or trying to discern where the unidentified background music was coming from after they had already stopped playing a song, his ability to effortlessly switch from sincerity to silly is both impressive and welcomed. After he tongue-in-cheekily alluded to the “possibility of an encore” (*wink*), Dave and the guys finished the main set and came back out to play “God Gave Me You,” his #1 hit by way of country music star Blake Shelton. After telling an amazing story of having to watch its television debut alone in a hotel and having his uncle offer to “steal the song back” from Blake, Dave and the guys closed the night out with a stunning version of the song that almost had to fight to be heard over the resounding crowd. It was a fitting response from an appreciative crowd for an amazing night of stories and songs.
Other highlights of the night included great opening sets from tour mate Andrew Ripp and local contest winner Robert Counts. Both artists won the crowd over with excellent covers including a laid back version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” from Counts and a folksy cover of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” from Ripp. Ripp also threw in snippets of The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” throughout the night as well. Another nice touch to the night was when Dave and his band took the stage to the sound of The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag” in honor of the recent loss of legendary musical giant Levon Helm. It’s always cool to see artists pay their respects to those who came before them, especially ones that were so influential and ones that also had great stories to tell themselves.

*Set List*
- How Long
- Heaven Help Me
- Until You
- More Than A Man
- Carry Me Through
- Love Will Be Enough
- Nothing Fancy
- Grace's Amazing Hands
- Someday, Sarah
- Chameleon
- White Flag
- Mine To Love
- Little Lies
- God Gave Me You

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