[Review] - Phillip Phillips

With rare exceptions, my knowledge of music tends to drop off somewhere around the end of the eighties. The sounds coming out of Top 40 and modern rock stations all sound too homogenized and soulless to be anything beyond a passing distraction, without any true lasting power or influence. But, I have a strict policy of not turning down something offered for free, so when I was handed tickets for Phillip Phillips I was game, despite never having heard the name before.

It became one of those rare events where I went into it completely without expectations. And happily, I left having been both surprised and impressed. The sound was analogous without being overly derivative, and the band played with rampant enthusiasm. I left the show wondering very much how their live sound compared to their studio sound, which I suppose is as good a result as they could have hoped for from a complete newbie.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

Before we get to the main event, a word or two on the opening act, Twin Forks. It is rare for an opening act to make an equal impression on me as the headliner, but Forks was exactly the sound I am drawn to. A folk rock group headed by Dashboard Confessional front-man Chris Carrabba, who has an overabundance of energy and passion for the music he was playing. They are a fresh addition to the increasingly crowded folk scene, which has seen a resurgence of late, and a mainstream popularity not seen since the 1960s. The band was down the two female members of the group the night I saw them, but until their absence was mentioned, you never would have known. The small group carried their performance with humour and considerable aplomb. They are an outlier of an opening act that I recalled at all after the evening was over, and will actively seek out in the future.

As for the headliner, Phillips, a former American Idol winner, turned out to be cut from the same cloth as Dave Matthews and Matchbox Twenty. His sound alternates from a streamlined but far from stripped down style of rock, to a folk-infused acoustic arrangement. The man himself handles both well, and threw himself into the performance. It is an uncommon thing to see someone attack an acoustic guitar with the ferocity of a heavy metal artist, but he put his whole body into his strumming. As did the rest of his band, with the exception of the dedicated trumpet player, who spent most of the show jealously staring at the rest of the band, waiting for something to do. Most impressive of the lot was the fellow on the electric guitar, who seemed to be on loan from the seventies, in both attitude and persuasion. His use of his instrument in the arrangement reminded me greatly of Dire Straits. He included a few covers in his set, including the whitest version of Let's Get It On possible, and concluded the show with a very slowed down version of In The Air Tonight. These covers showcased his ability to be musically manipulative, which also accounts for his basic, infusion based style.

The crowd was on their feet from the moment Phillips walked onto stage, a side effect no doubt of his reality show origins (the crowd also heavily favoured women), which unfortunately meant he didn't have to earn their enthusiasm at any stage of the show. Most modern artists, from what I've seen, use this religious-like devotion to do the bare minimum. Phillips put in the effort. In the course of a song, he was completely immersed and seemed to be putting everything he had into the performance. It was only in the drifting moments between songs, when he tried to connect without the music, that things tended to ramble and sputter (he told a meandering tale about a sweater that went nowhere). But once he was one task and a song was in hand, he was single-minded and relentless. And he closed the show with a bit of pandering to the crowd, which didn't hurt his endearing qualities.

The net result of the evening was two groups whose existence was unknown to me previously, both of whom I will now be keeping at least one ear open for in the future. And while I might not be a full convert to Phillips himself, he's at least proof that one shouldn't judge an artist on their origins alone.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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