I arrived at the Madison Theater early – too early, as I almost always seem to do. It’s funny, if I have some important event or project in my life, I wrap things up in minute 59 of hour 11, but I’m always one of the first 10 people in the door for a rock show.
The rock show in question on this night was Brett Dennen with Blind Pilot in support. The opener was a pleasant surprise, since I didn’t learn who it would be until I was walking in the door. I have recently been digging their latest release “We Are the Tide.”
I could probably pump out 1,000 words on their set alone. The band floated through their polished and beautiful tunes and drew a hearty crowd to the merch tables when the final notes of Mr. Dennen’s final song had faded out, but this night belonged to the lanky redhead.
Dennen might get pegged as a singer/songwriter type, and I certainly understand the classification. Simple and poignant tunes like “Ain’t No Reason” and “Heaven,” with their cleaver turns of phrase and focus on melody and mood rather than showy instrumental flourishes, certainly brings to mind coffeehouse folk.
But, this guy puts on a performance.
From his goofy, white-boy-does-James-Brown dance steps to the occasional reach-for-the-sky-amidst-musical-bliss moments; expression just oozed from the stage. While some musicians stare at their sneakers as they lifelessly plow through another show, Dennen felt every note and showed it with every movement.
The set drew heavily from his latest long play, “Loverboy” and that seemed to suit the crowd just fine. On a side note, I have a message for the six female members of the lollipop guild that pushed their way to the front just before Dennen hit the stage: if you want to be close, get there earlier. Granted, they didn’t hamper my view, because they all stood at four-feet tall or less, but I digress.
All told, the show was stellar. Dennen proved that he remains a criminally underrated musician capable of many styles and moods, from the island-tinged “I Can’t Stop Thinking about You” to the ginger funk of “Queen of the Westside.” After a short encore break, Dennen returned to the stage for a couple solo acoustic tunes, including the poignant “Ain’t No Reason.”
I don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but my Monday nights generally don’t generate this much fun.