Anderson East | Hotel Café (Los Angeles, CA) | June 25, 2015 |
Sometimes entries on my music calendar can extend as far out as eight months: when a must-see show pops up on my radar, that puppy gets noted in order to block out and dissuade any other potential options. While not as far out as the eight month mark, such was the case when a particular show by a particular artist presented itself in May. As a music fan generously appreciative of today’s mashed up and blended genres, there’s always room for that voice, that human entity who embraces and embodies a legacy sound bringing it forward with little to no loss of its original beauty and impact. That voice – pure, beautiful and downright remarkable – presented itself to the folks at the Hotel Café. God bless the calendar.
His is a 24 year-old young soul infected with old soul: Anderson East. Holy shit, what can we say about this curly haired, bright-eyed, adorably foul-mouthed Southern charmer? We can start with sometimes a guy (in this case, a Nashville by way of Alabama-guy) intrinsically summons the best ghosts of R&B, soul and blues past, until he’s ever so gracefully possessed by them. Per that fact, East comes to you completely imbued with the imprints of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and those of that ilk: bearing that deep and sensual moan of love gone right and wrong, a passion for the Stax era, and the gift of a strikingly weathered voice for powerful deliverance.
Oh my, it was good night at the Hotel Café.
To say that East was like a kid in a candy store is an understatement: he was playful, high on his life, and ebullient to the point of it being infectious. And yet he had full grasp of the weight of the situation: Where he was (in Los Angeles), where he was playing (a venerable venue where being seated at one of the eight tables is coveted), who he was playing to (beautiful, tanned people with white teeth), and when he was playing (on a Thursday night).
So with a full backing band both loose and tight (including keys, sax and trumpet players), East and company played an oh so satisfactory 45-minute set that felt more like a revelation than a mere performance. They punched through tunes from his The Muscle Shoals Sessions EP with torch song quality tracks like “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, and Forget ‘Em,” “Devil In Me,” “Only You” and funkily took on Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” (those who recognized and sang along to it: thumbs up!). All the while, his impressive and emotional vocal range was damned special to witness and, my goodness, but honey could have – literally – been dripping from his lips as he crooned with eyes tightly closed through Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.” It was that reach into your chest, squeeze your heart, soul stirring kind of stuff: the musical arrangements were bold and lively echoes of the past while the deep and dirty gorgeous grit of East’s voice acted as a rootsy balm. There was the putting of his body into the music: leaning into and out of it, even leaving the small stage, momentarily, to revel with the crowd. And then there was the entirety of the Hotel Café room on its feet (and those of us in LA know what a feat that is) shaking their collective groove things during the set’s closer, “Satisfy Me.”
Yeah, it was good night at the Hotel Café.
And file this under “Christmas comes early”: Delilah, Anderson East’s full length debut on Low Country Sounds/Elektra Records, comes out July 10th.