Electrifying a jam-packed Stache inside Grand Rapids’ The Intersection, the duo with a top-shelf backing band rocked the house in emotional fashion. The review, photos, video at Local Spins.
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“Welcome to the church of War and Treaty, baby.”
Singer, keyboardist and musical minister of healing Michael Trotter Jr. accurately described the frenzied, spirited scene on Thursday, as soulful Americana’s The War and Treaty turned the cozy confines of The Intersection’s Stache into a sanctuary of gospel- and rock-infused fervor.
Those fans scratching their heads about putting the acclaimed War and Treaty in a small room like The Stache were likely just as blown away by the way the duo’s charisma overpowered the stage and pretty much everyone on hand, with a big assist from a top-shelf band.
Playing loud and proud for their home-state faithful, the congenial intimacy of the Grand Rapids venue somehow seemed wholly appropriate for their return to Michigan as the one-time Albion residents toured behind their new Dave Cobb-produced studio album, “Lover’s Game.”
It gave both artists and devotees that rare opportunity to interact in up-close-and-personal fashion, a specialty of this loving couple who ooze affection, vocal power and genre-melding charm with plenty of emotional moments and poignant interludes that brought both tears and laughter.
“It feels great to be here,” Trotter told me backstage before the show as he and his wife, Tanya, prepared to confront what he called “the energy” of a West Michigan homecoming crowd that included pals of band guitarist and music director Max Brown, who has ties to Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor.
There were plenty of shoutouts to Grand Rapids, Albion and Detroit throughout the rousing, one-hour-and-40-minute set which even included a Motown medley of sorts paying tribute to a few of Michigan’s most iconic artists and songs.
The tour stop came as the now Nashville-based group basks in more notable news, having just been nominated for duo of the year at the upcoming American Country Music Awards. They certainly proved their mettle as worthy nominees on Thursday.
“The thing we’re excited about is that we’re in Grand Rapids,” Trotter insisted. “Love is here, joy is here, hope is here, togetherness is here. We’re gonna get rowdy tonight.”
And indeed, they did, blasting out of the chute with high-volume, rock ferocity and powering through several songs from the new album – “Lover’s Game,” “Ain’t No Harmin’ Me,” “Blank Page” – as well as older favorites such as “Down to the River,” “Hey Pretty Moon” (first performed live for a 2018 Local Spins at River City Studios session) and the touching, audience-inspiring “Five More Minutes” that has become an anthem for suicide prevention and supporting mental health.
Country singer and opening act William Prince, who delivered a set of acoustic balladry that earned a rousing response from the crowd to open the night, was among those in the audience raptly embracing the duo’s earnest songs.
At one point, The War and Treaty even got jazzy, bluesy and moody with trumpet solos and scatting, followed by an especially spine-tingling rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Channeling everything from Ray Charles to Tina Turner to The Civil Wars to Aretha Franklin, the band had fans mesmerized from the get-go.
All of it brought tears, hugs, kisses on stage and plenty of those electrifying harmonies that first drew fans to their music years ago — voices that closed the evening with full-bore, congregation-involving revelry.
The church of War and Treaty? Call it a traveling rock ’n’ soul salvation show.
The War and Treaty play the El Club in Detroit tonight (Friday). Details, tickets here.
PHOTO GALLERY: The War and Treaty, William Prince at The Stache
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker
VIDEO: The War and Treaty at The Stache
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