(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Concert Review - Marc Broussard, Josh Hoge, Chad Price

30 January 2009, Aggie Theater (Ft. Collins, CO)

I went to this show to see Marc Broussard. He's been on my radar for a while but I've never seen him live. With a new album out, Marc is starting to become more popular: this fall he has appeared on Conan O'Brian and the Tonight Show. For this show, he had Josh Hoge opening for him. He was supposed to have Jessie Baylin open as well, but she wasn't able to make it for this show, so they had Chad Price start out the show.

Chad is a local performer who's played with the bands All (punk) and Drag the River (alt-country). Drag the River seems to be effectively on hiatus and Chad is mostly performing solo. What he played last night is squarely in the introspective singer-songwriter camp. Here's a video of Chad (with longer hair), which was typical of what he was playing. It's rough-edged, raspy country/folk - a little lower keyed than the Drag the River's typical songs. His stage presence was similarly low key, which is a little surprising because he's had plenty of experience touring with his bands. Anyway, I have a soft place in my heart for smaller-name opening acts. It's hard to get up there and play for an audience that's impatient for the main act. So, I really wanted to like Chad but, as my friend Tommy said, "he didn't make it easy." He didn't talk much and his material was depressive and a little whiny. On the plus side, he is a competent guitar player with some nice chops but it wasn't enough to shift the balance. The set mostly reminded me of a Tuesday night open-mic show. The poor sound mix didn't help either. The high point of the set for me was his cover of the Everly Brothers' song, Cathy's Clown.

The second act brought a lot more energy to the stage: Josh Hoge and his band kicked things off pretty quickly with a cover of the Allman Brothers' Midnight Rider. I had never heard of Josh before but there were a number of people there at the show who did know him. He also name-dropped a little about his music industry connections with Ne-Yo and others, so he's not quite coming out of nowhere. While the set started out with more of a rock feel, it quickly shifted into an R&B/pop space, which was very typical of his style. It would be easy to reference John Legend when I try to describe his style but I'll go old-school instead and bring up Darrel Hall (of Hall and Oates). They both have the same blue eyed soul thing happening, with the sensuous vocal style and the sudden breaks to falsetto. This sort of thing is not quite my sweet spot but it's easy to appreciate good talent.His band is really tight and they all knew how to work the stage. They also provided smooth backing vocals. In his banter between songs, Josh had an odd-cadenced, deadpan speaking voice - sort of like Mitch Hedberg. Like Mitch, he was pretty funny. Talking about his latest album, which airs a lot of frustration about a failed relationship, he summarized his feelings about the relationship with an understated, "That did not make me happy." Speaking of his original songs, I like his writing style. Nice lyrics, such as for his single, 360:
What goes around comes around
Baby I thought you knew
You do somebody wrong for too long
Its gonna get done to you
And you might think you got away
Played me for a fool
Thought you knew, 360 is coming right back to you
Good songs, entertaining banter - this was a great set. He closed with a cover of Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, with a big "drive it home" ending that reminded me of the Allman's end to Whipping Post, which made a nice bookend for the set.

As I mentioned, I've been aware of Marc Broussard for a while but I haven't followed him closely. I've kind of thought of him as a blues and soul artist, maybe grouping him with Bonnie Rait or Eric Clapton. This doesn't begin to match what the show was like. The set started with a loose and dreamy intro that quickly built up as the band took the stage. This was a full band, with bass, drums, keys and guitar plus Marc playing on most of the songs - they had a big sound. If Josh was good, Marc was great! Following Josh's R&B groove, this was a more mature soul sound. It was also more versatile: Marc could slide into a Marvin Gaye thing on one song and then, on the next song, rock it out to reach for Living Color or Stevie Wonder. The set list moved from soul to rock to tight funk groove. Everything was paced perfectly to build the energy, then give us a chance to catch our breath, then kick it up another notch. When they dove into a cover of P-Funk's Unfunky UFO, everybody was bouncing. Throughout all of this, Broussard digs into his Louisiana roots to give it a little of that delta groove. I could keep pulling out musical touchstones, like Dr. John, Steve Winwood, the Funky Meters, and so on, but that's just trying to give y'all a taste of what you missed. He closed out the set with his song Home, which morphed into Whole Lotta Love and back. After that, we were drained but ready for more. He came out and started his encore solo, singing a couple of songs written for his daughter and son, before building it up with the band again.

I have to say, if you ever get the chance to see Marc Broussard, definitely make the effort. Dark rum and coke, with a splash of Kahlúa should give you the energy to weather the journey.

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