I’ve always been a fiercely independent person who has never had any problem going to a movie or concert by myself. As a songwriter and composer, music has been my lifelong passion since I first taught myself to play the piano and guitar as a child. Last night was no exception as I found myself heading over to Rotary Hill for the Gavin DeGraw concert at Last Fling. (photo from www.gavindegraw.com)
Having heard some of Gavin DeGraw’s work over the past couple of years, I was very interested to see how his combination of rock, soul and funk translated on stage. By the time the final chords of his hit song “Chariot” ended in his final finale last night, I sat in awe as a total fan contemplating the best Last Fling concert I had ever attended.
Aside from his considerable talent, there was a wonderful youthful energy at the show which generated authentic excitement when taken in comparsion to the usual national nostalgia acts Last Fling is famous for. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed seeing legendary bands like .38 Special and Cheap Trick over the years, but the energy was much different on this evening. Being among the thiry-something crowd, I often find myself caught in the middle enjoying both younger and older acts.
Hailing from Fallsburg, NY, DeGraw took to the stage with a band which might geographically provide some hints as to the roots of his musical style. With a keyboard player from New Orleans, a bass player from Arkansas and a lead guitarist from North Carolina, it was clear that DeGraw’s devotion is to a soulful brand of southern rock. Yet, his music is very approachable for the masses.
DeGraw has mastered the stage like a pro as was evidenced by his considerable and regular connection with the audience, which included a mediated proposal from one of the young audience members who tossed a note onto the stage asking a girl out to homecoming. He also told a story from earlier in the afternoon in which the concert promoter mistook him for the opening act, Absentstar, shortly after exiting his tour bus after arriving at Rotary Hill. A good story, but it left me wondering if this was a regular template “story” he might use to thank the opening act each evening. Nonetheless, his stage presence definitely comes across as humble and genuine.
DeGraw opened the concert on electric guitar, but quickly settled into a shimmering sparkling silver miniature baby grand style piano. Despite his talent as a multi-instrumentalist, perhaps his greatest instrument is his unique soulful and gritty voice. In a nutshell, in a live setting he certainly knows how to work out a song and seems to enjoy unleashing each and every note.
I want to pay special compliments to his sound and lighting engineer. The opening act’s sound, engineered by the general house sound guy, was absolutely horrible. Tragically, most opening acts suffer from not receiving “the treatment” from the sound folks. Of course, DeGraw, had his own sound and lightning engineers who took the show very seriously. I watched them working their magic from where I was sitting, just a few yards to the side of the front of the house sound pit. Both lighting and sound spent the entire show bobbing their heads and working thier boards like an instrument in their own right. The end product shined radiantly from the stage. The crew is always the unsung heroes of a good show and I wanted to be sure they got their credit.
The crowd delivered an enthusiastic wave of energy to DeGraw and company throughout the entire set and the sight of glowing cell phone screens shimmered within a large radius surrounding the stage. While my folding chair was just behind the standing room only section, I would have moved down closer to the stage if I had the show to do over again. Everyone stood throughout the entire show, which was great as I’ve received complaints in the past from fans who streamed into Naperville for one of the festival concerts and were irritated by the apathetic folks sitting in front of them. Fortunately, this was a true fan’s show and I hope the Last Fling organizers continue to bring fresh acts like this in the future.
To Gavin DeGraw, thanks for a great show and hopefully we’ll see you again soon! SM