Thursday night in Grand Rapids was special in more ways than one, highlighted by singer-songwriter Amos Lee’s amazing concert and post-show, beer-enhanced sing-along. Photos and video at Local Spins.
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A guy and a guitar.
It might sound a bit cliché, but when those guys with guitars are also celebrated musicians and storytellers, they can create inviting evenings of music filled with memorable tales.
Two of those guys’ performances at different Grand Rapids venues on Thursday unfurled in raw, stripped-down fashion compared with their appearances just a few months ago as full-band affairs at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
Philadelphia soul, Americana and folk artist Amos Lee kicked off St. Cecilia Music Center’s 140th anniversary season with an acoustic blues-hued set that beguiled a capacity crowd of 600-plus fans — and ended up rewarding them with beer from Founders Brewing Co. and a post-show, sing-along performance of “Angel From Montgomery” by Lee on the stairwell in the St. Cecilia lobby.
It all started in between songs at St. Cecilia, when Lee — dressed casually in a flannel shirt, jeans and trucker’s cap — started chatting with fans, taking requests and joking amiably.
“I wish I had 600 beers right now. … We could make that happen,” he quipped at one point, to giggles and cheers from the audience. “Let’s see if we can get 600 beers delivered here. Honestly, I might do it as a thank you to the people. I want to buy the people a beer.”
So indeed, he did.
Ordering beer from Founders Brewing to satiate the thirsty crowd after the show, Lee then proceeded to extend his entertaining evening by leading a sing-along to the John Prine classic while on the lobby stairway to the delight of fans.
VIDEO: Amos Lee and The Crowd in the St. Cecilia Lobby (“Angel From Montgomery”)
Ever congenial and complimentary of St. Cecilia’s historic Royce Auditorium — even encouraging the audience to attend the venue’s chamber music concerts — Lee showed off the hall’s pristine acoustics in Royce Auditorium during the concert by performing his first song, “Skipping Stone,” away from the microphone.
“It feels so good to sing in this place,” he acknowledged.
Rolling out songs such as “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight,” “Supply and Demand,” “Seen It All Before” and “Bottom of the Barrel,” Lee’s soulful, resonant voice certainly soared in fetching fashion in that auditorium, with the singer even adding tender falsettos when the song demanded it.
The intimate evening of music on Thursday — which also had Lee inviting audience member Tom Sullivan on stage to play guitar with him — came in stark contrast to Lee’s performance with the Grand Rapids Symphony in July at Meijer Gardens.
ANOTHER GUY WITH A GUITAR AT WEALTHY: DAVE BRUZZA
Beer deliveries aside, more than 200 fans less than two miles away at Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre were toasting guitarist Dave Bruzza of the Kalamazoo progressive bluegrass powerhouse Greensky Bluegrass, part of a solo tour that also takes him to Three Oaks’ Acorn Theater on Friday, with other weekend stops in Chicago and St. Louis.
“This is terrifying. I’m not usually alone up here,” said Bruzza, who like Lee had performed earlier in the year at Meijer Garden, a sold-out late-June show with Greensky Bluegrass that revved up more than 1,900 fans at the sold-out amphitheater.
And like Lee, Bruzza — a Michigan native who now resides in Denver — reveled in the acoustic gemütlichkeit of a cozy indoor venue, a refreshing way for fans to hear lyrics clearly, stripped of any accouterments and flash.
Playing original tunes (“Like Reflections”), Greensky Bluegrass songs (“Streetlight”) and covers (Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat”), Bruzza employed the same laid-back, blue-collar approach as Lee, telling stories behind the songs while interjecting amusing observations.
“Bless your vital organs,” he told the applauding crowd at one juncture. “Some people say ‘Bless your heart,’ but there’s so much more to it than that.”
Opening the evening was guitarist and Dobro whiz Mark Lavengood, who was accompanied by pal Loren Kranz. (Lavengood joins Billy Strings on stage at Van Andel Arena on Oct. 31.)
Browse the photo galleries below.
PHOTO GALLERY: Amos Lee, Mutlu at St. Cecilia Music Center
Photos by Bryan Esler and Courtesy Photos
PHOTO GALLERY: Dave Bruzza, Mark Lavengood at Wealthy Theatre
Photos by Anna Sink
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