The lines to get into The Palace Theatre on Friday night were longer than I’ve ever seen them. That made my heart so full. I have been a huge fan of South African born Gregory Alan Isakov for years and it makes me so happy to see him finally get the recognition and crowds that he is so deserving of. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Gregory Alan Isakov play in front of packed crowds before but there was just something different about it on Friday night. Maybe it was the fact that all of these people were braving the sub-zero temperatures to stand in line to ensure they got into the beautiful theatre in time to catch the show or maybe it was just the anticipation that was flooding the air I was breathing– regardless, I may have been shivering uncontrollably but I was so excited to witness the magic that is Gregory Alan Isakov.
A little background on the man and legend. As mentioned, Gregory was born in South Africa but immigrated to the US when he was fairly young. He has put out seven full-length albums including an absolutely stellar recording done with the Colorado Symphony. His sound is fairly slow and somber creating the perfect soundtrack to get emotional to but it’s also so much more than that as he proved on Friday night. There’s an undeniable sense of power to everything this man does. Whether performing as a soloist or with his stellar band (which is the form we got on Friday for most of the set– but more on that later), it’s all eyes on Gregory every time he hits the stage. His voice is smooth and conveys a sense of passion that I wish every vocalist could harness but not every vocalist can be him.
There were no openers for the show on Friday night and although there was a slight delay for the show to start, nobody seemed to mind because the second the stage lights illuminated Gregory and his fantastic band, the crowd was silent and instantly captivated. That never changed throughout the sixteen-song set and then the two single-song encores. Every song was followed by a roar of applause but other than that and a few hoots and hollers after epically beautiful moments, the crowd was silent to the point where had the band not been playing, you could have heard a pin drop. The biggest response from the audience was during “Caves”, a song where Gregory Alan Isakov has a line mentioning St. Paul. “See I’m far from St. Paul and I go running when the night aches…” The roar that followed that beautiful line of words was not surprising but it was more deafening than I expected.
Gregory is a man of few words and he truly lets his music do the talking for him. He was clearly thankful for everyone that had come out even with the arctic tundra feel outside and never missed a moment to thank them for that. Typically, I look forward to the moments that an artist addresses the crowd but I loved how few and far between those moments were on Friday night. We did get a small glimpse into his personality as he joked about how he needs to have more songs that name cities just due to the response that the St. Paul line got. It was just a small laughable moment from the beautiful evening but it was a gorgeous look into this man’s personality and really made the night feel a bit more intimate than it was.
There were no big surprises in his set other than the performance of “Appaloosa Bones” which is a new track for him. Other than that, he played his standards and the songs that surely have helped many in the audience through hard times in life just like they have helped me. I wish I could tell you my favorite part of the set when it comes to the song curation but, the fact is that every song was perfectly picked and exquisitely placed in the set list. I couldn’t have picked a better order or curation had I tried.
Another thing that I think was done perfectly through the set was the different versions of the music we got. Although having the entire band on stage brought a sense of power and energy to the room, it was super beautiful when some of the members would leave the stage leaving a scaled-back band on stage. Regardless of how many people were on stage, it was Gregory Alan Isakov’s voice that shined. That being said, every member of his band was truly amazing and I would be bold enough to say that he has found the best musicians out there to be with him.
Out of the entire night, there was a moment in the opening track “San Luis” that really got me. The instrumentation fell out just leaving multiple vocals in the mix. It instantly gave me chills but also gave me the feeling of flying. Yes, I realize how nutty that sounds but just believe me. The ramp-up of instrumentation before it fell out was orchestral and stunning and, when left with just the vocals suddenly, it gave me the feeling of leaping off of a cliff and just letting the wind take me. It’s so hard to put into words and now that I try to do just that, I realize how insane I must sound but it was just a moment that I don’t think I will forget anytime soon regardless of how many shows I attend.
I love my metal and punk shows. I truly do. I love the energy you get from the band and audience at those shows and honestly love the camaraderie that comes with them but there was something magical about my evening with Gregory Alan Isakov on Friday night that I just don’t get from those rowdier shows. It was one of those nights where the music was in the spotlight and nothing else mattered. Long story short, Friday night with Gregory Alan Isakov was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve had in recent memory.