Last night was the first day of Chanukah and I was in the mood to celebrate. Naturally, my celebration came in form of a concert of musicians that I had never heard of before. I was clearly the only person that had never heard of Allen Stone. As I came up to The Varsity Theater, I was greeted by a line stretching down the block. By the time I got inside, I found myself lost in a crowd that must have been damn near sold out if not sold out. I weaved my way through the crowd and found myself in the solace of the photo pit area where I had room to breathe. Within no time the show started and thus did my Chanukah celebration.
First up was California based Nick Waterhouse. Just like headliner Allen Stone, I had never heard of Nick Waterhouse but the chatter was real on my Facebook page. I had a bunch of people commenting about how jealous they were and that they had no clue he was opening the show. I was intrigued and as soon as Nick and his lovely band jumped into their forty-five minute set, it all made sense. Their sound was something of another time. It has a sense of simplicity when it came to the vibe and a sense of pure professionalism when it came to their performance. Being the odd instrument person I am (I’m obsessed with bands with different instrumentation because, let’s face it, drums, guitars, bass and vocals will only get you so far), I was extremely captivated by Paula- the baritone sax player as she jammed through the set. That being said, every member on the stage during that opening set brought something to the table that could not be missed making the forty-five minute set seem more like forty-five seconds.
Although Nick Waterhouse may not be a household name at this point, that doesn’t diminish his accomplishments or talent. Since the early 2000’s he has been staying true to his unique R&B meets doo-wop meets jazz meets soul all wrapped up in a bow that screams Buddy Holly (okay, maybe that was just the glasses but there was a very old school vibe to Nick that reminded me of some sort of Buddy Holly). Again, I knew nothing about this man prior to walking into last night’s show but as soon as he introduced a song by saying he wrote it with Leon Bridges– well, game over. It’s not that he had to name drop at all what with his music being so unique and so perfect but it definitely made me understood the weight of influence. With three full lengths, a couple singles, and a bunch of production credits under his belt, it’s clear that there is no stopping Nick Waterhouse.
The stage change-over probably only felt long to me due to anticipation. A younger kid standing near me introduced himself and asked if I had ever seen Allen Stone before. I explained to him that I had honestly never even heard of the guy before but I was intrigued and addicted to live music so there I was. He instantly started gushing over how good Allen Stone is and how big of a treat I was in for. Although I usually get annoyed by people like that (geez man, let me form my own opinion), there was something about this young kid that had me sold. He was genuinely excited for what was to come and genuinely hoped that I enjoyed it as much as he knew he was going to. Our conversation seized as soon as the lights went down and within seconds I understood this kid’s excitement.
Call him a R&B singer, call him a soul singer, call him whatever you want but don’t forget to put captivating and amazing in front of whatever you choose. At thirty-one years old, Allen Stone has one of the best voices I’ve heard in years. It’s as smooth as an amazing wine but it still has an edge on it that make him feel a bit like a rock n’ roll superstar. Honestly, that seems to be his whole vibe. He clearly blurs the lines between many different genres but it seems to be completely organic. As I watched him perform through his lengthy nearly twenty song set, it was clear that he was not trying to be anything other than what he is. He urged the crowd to do the same. He explained that the show was a safe place for you to be who you want and do what you wanted- no judgement. It created an amazing atmosphere that was perfect for the first night of Chanukah.
As mentioned, Allen Stone’s music spans across many different genres with ease. Every song seemed to have a different vibe while still screaming Allen Stone. That music mixed the vibe he had created throughout the nearly sold out audience made for a memorable night. There was really no “stage show” other than some fancy lights but that, again, just seemed to add to the vibe. Here was Allen Stone- a guy who clearly has a devout following and can sell out venues across the country without a giant show leaving the audience with nothing but his energy, music, and fun. For some musicians that just isn’t enough. They need the smoke and mirrors to make their shows memorable but not Allen Stone. His voice and the passion that was clearly felt radiating from the stage was more than enough to make last night’s show memorable and amazing.
Thank you Nick Waterhouse and Allen Stone for kicking my Chanukah off in style. Cheers to seven more nights of amazing music and beautiful vibes.