Last night the packed house at Venice Beach's WitZend was buzzing after the electrifying performance of Alexis Keegan in her first full band show. I had the feeling that I'd been there before. Not the venue, because I've been there many times, although this was my first time since Jeb Milne died. No, the feeling came from the music and the sense that something big was about to happen. And then it hit me - I felt the same way the first time I heard another blonde with a big soaring voice perform at The Whiskey some 10 years ago. That blonde - Candace Devine - has blasted into the stratosphere as part of the pop/soul duo David and Devine.
Keegan was joined onstage by Dom Williams on tambourine and backing vocals, Enrique Lara on drums, Elliott Schwartzman on guitar, Will Herrington on keys and piano and Cory Hunter on bass. From the chemistry and energy emanating from the stage, you would never believe that this was the first time these guys have played together before an audience.
The magic fell on the opening note of Just a Little and continued through the closing note of her soon-to-be-released-to-radio ballad Worry no More. The crowd felt it too, as they encouraged her with applause, cheers and their collective energy.
Keegan performed all the songs from her recently released EP Clean SLATE (an acronym that means Seeking Life After The End), as well as a crowd pleasing medley of several well-known R&B hits. The combination of the vocal abilities of Keegan and Williams provided a melodic harmony reminiscent of Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway.
Her first song, Just a Little started slow, with just Keegan and the piano. The band joined her on the second verse and the song began to soar and swell, giving a foretaste of what was to come. I felt like I was watching Whitney Houston perform The Bodyguard soundtrack, and felt that Keegan's song would have fit right in.
Her next two songs, Are you Gonna Love Me? and Your Name in my Heartbeat continued the slow, sensuous vibe, even though these songs are about heartbreak and break-up. Keegan puts so much emotion into her music that the feeling lifts you up, despite the lyrical content.
Her fourth song, Don't Need You Now, which is my personal favorite, sounded even better live than on the EP, if that is possible. It is a soaring song of empowerment and would be the perfect follow-up to her radio debut. This song is so powerful and the message is so clear that I could put it on repeat for a full day!
Keegan introduced her fifth song, The Game, with the statement "This song is about how dating sucks." The lyrics include the line "Falling in love is a game everyone wants to play." Truer words were never spoken or sung.
Just when the crowd thought it couldn't get any better, Keegan launched into a medley of two extremely popular R&B songs, Beyonce's Drunk in Love and Usher's Nice and Slow. The audience responded with a thunderous round of applause that perfectly set up Keegan's finale. Keegan closed her set with Worry no More, which will debut on the Hot AC charts next week.
It was a wonderful show on a beautiful night. Even if I hadn't come back to LA for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, last night alone would have been worth the 1,200 mile trip from Montana.
Keegan's next show is her debut at the Hotel Cafe on July 1. Keegan's set opens the night at 7 p.m. Keegan also announced that she would be the opener for Howie Day at his show in NYC on July 16.