|Anderson East | Sweetwater | 3.10.16|
Upon taking the stage his band mates showcased their skills as pros, opening the night with a cover of, "Find 'em, Fool 'em, Forget 'em." Their sound was big, with rich key-work, an über sharp rhythm section and full of horns. A soulful "Quit You" was juxtaposed by, "Only You." The fourth offering of the night took us on a trip down memory lane, as they daftly transformed Mariah's, "Always Be My Baby." The Sweetwater crowd was eating it up. Next came a slow number, I think titled, "Lonely."
At the half dozen mark they softly began the notes to "Tupelo Honey." This Van classic was aided prominently by some slide guitar work that was eerily close to Derek Trucks-esque. The second half of Tupelo morphed into an awesome southern jam. This was one of the high points of the night. Digging back into their own song book, they launched into a jukebox-like rendition of, "Keep the Fire Burning." Another cover came next, Eddie Floyd's, "Knock on Wood." Some welcomed banter told the story of why he wrote, "Devil In Me." After the title track, East was left standing alone on stage.
Solo and armed with an acoustic guitar, Anderson went for the heart punch. He slowly made us feel his ache during, "What a Woman Wants"—perhaps my favorite song from the Devil In Me album. His voice can soothe, now it was cutting. Remaining alone, he kept with the theme of pain, leading to resolve and perhaps understanding. Further wrapping these emotions into poetry were the words to, "Lying In Her Arms." His honesty is a plow etching into your chest, stopping at a depth that punishes the heart just enough. The band would return to add texture; him standing with his words was the tool doing work.
Now that the deep cuts were made, the plurality of the band pushed us back into the fun of rock and roll. Rod Stewart would have been proud as they blitzed us with a rocking, "Stay with Me." It reminded me of arena-rock done right. The Faces cover literally moved the crowd. Briefly tethering an original between covers, the next track would carry the gravity of a fallen great. Anderson began by saying, "This cover is for one we lost; he was just cooler than everybody else." Blasting their way through, "Rebel Rebel," we were all thinking of Bowie (RIP) as East's voice cried out the lyrics. A small Prince tease dovetailed into the track, "Satisfy Me." Having satisfied my senses, all seven members would leave the stage. Returning for one more song, "Your Love is All I'll Ever Need," closed the door on a fantastic night of music and camaraderie.
Anderson East and company will be returning to the Bay area next month. Catch them at The Hopmonk in Sebastopol April 17th, or at The Greek in Berkeley April 23rd as they open for Chris Stapleton.