How many times is too many times to see a particular band or musicians? I have posed this question before not just for you, but also for me. I have some acts that I refuse to miss when they come to town but then, when it comes time to review the concert, I realize I have nothing new to say. That was the case when it came to reviewing Gregory Alan Isakov’s show on Saturday night at The Palace Theatre but, before I get into his set, let’s talk about the opener, Fruit Bats.
The opener for Saturday night’s sold-out show was supposed to be Damien Jurado but he had to pull out due to illness. Although I was bummed, Gregory Alan Isakov didn’t let us down when it came to finding a last-minute replacement. This replacement came in the form of Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats. Honestly, Eric is Fruit Bats as he is the band’s only permanent member but he is typically joined by a full band which is what made the opening set on Saturday that much more special.
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Fruit Bats (and Eric, obviously but, to keep things clean, I will just refer to the set as Fruit Bats’ set as it was advertised as a “Fruit Bats Solo” performance) is a folk rock band that has carved a spot out in a saturated scene due to the amount of passion that comes with every song. At least, that’s what makes them stand out to me. That passion was put directly into the spotlight as Eric played and sang his way through a quick opening set.
Unfortunately, due to long lines and poor planning on my part, I was a bit late to the party and made it in time to only catch a couple of songs. This killed me. I was so enamored by everything about Eric for the few songs I was able to catch and instantly kicked myself for not keeping in mind that this was a sold-out show and the lines were going to be long. Regardless, again, the songs I caught were flawless. Although I listen to Fruit Bats, I’m not a diehard fan and could not tell what songs I caught but I can tell you that I am determined to go through Fruit Bats’ catalog a bit closer than I ever have today just based on how much I loved what I caught.
After a quick changeover, it was time for the one and only Gregory Alan Isakov. As mentioned, I have covered Gregory a couple of times now so I won’t bore you with all of the details but, long story short, he is a South African-born musician with a heart, soul, and voice that will make you melt. Stylistically, his music is very much more chill than I typically go for and it always surprises people when I list him as one of my all-time favorites but there’s just something about his voice. On top of that, there’s something about his performance.
When performing, Gregory Alan Isakov has this way of making you feel like you are the only person in the room. Although the show on Saturday was completely sold out and I was late enough to the point where I couldn’t get to my “secret spot” and could barely see from where I landed, I felt like he was singing his songs just to me. It’s a weird phenomena that doesn’t happen often but, when it does, it will literally take your breath away. There were conversations happening around me and drinks being ordered at the bar behind me but I didn’t notice them. All I noticed was Gregory’s voice and that’s all I needed.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. On top of the magic that is Gregory’s vocals is his backing band. I honestly don’t know who the players are in his band and I can’t tell if they are constantly rotating because I am always so captivated by Gregory but I can tell you that they are always perfect and Saturday night was no different. The band is full of clearly talented musicians who were each given their chance to shine throughout the nearly twenty-song set but, at the same time, they allowed Gregory to lead the show in a beautiful way. I talked about this just the other day when I covered Miya Folick but there’s something to be said about a band that respects the front-person and vice versa. It’s something that should be common practice but something that I think some bands miss out on– not Gregory Alan Isakov.
I have a lot more to say about the beauty of Gregory Alan Isakov’s set on Saturday night but I feel like it’s all been things I’ve said before and I don’t want to start rambling. The moral of the story is there is no such thing as seeing an act one too many times but, as a writer there is such a thing as becoming so comfortable with an act and so enamored by one that you forget that you are there to do a job. That was the case on Saturday night and the proof is in my lack of notes but that also is a note about the show in itself. I was lost in Gregory Alan Isakov’s world on Saturday night and it was a world that I didn’t want to leave when it was said and done. That says more than any descriptive words ever could.