Phillip Phillips won season 11 of "American Idol" and fast-tracked to the big leagues with his first single "Home" already attaining triple-platinum status. He is currently the opening act on Matchbox Twenty's 2013 tour, which rolled through Milwaukee on Feb. 9, 2013. The series of sold-out shows on the tour offers Phillips a perfect outlet to showcase his talents.
When Phillips took the stage at 7:30 p.m. the packed Riverside Theater was already close to capacity. Most arrived early to catch Phillips performance and those that did were rewarded. As the lights dimmed, Phillips approached center stage and sat down with his acoustic guitar. He was joined by a three-piece band that included a cellist, another guitarist and a percussionist. Together they wove an artistic web that perfectly captured Phillips bluesy vocals.
Picking up his acoustic, Phillips started jamming and his band quickly followed suit. The cello added a delicate foundation for Phillips' deft and light play. He performed "Hold On" from his debut album, "The World from the Side of the Moon." It was immediately obvious that Phillips has a gift that goes well beyond his vocals. His play and ability to both lead and improvise suggest that his star will continue to shine brightly.
Nursing a cold, Phillips throat sounded painfully hoarse when he spoke and was probably an octave lower than his normal voice. "Thank you. I have so much crap in my throat and nose, I'm gonna sing either way, even if it sucks," said Phillips after the first song. It was painful to hear him speak but his vocals indicated no sign of the cold. His dynamic voice and effortless ability to carry a tune easily masked any ill effects. If anything, the affliction merely added gravelly overtones that simply added to his already rich vocals.
He continued with "Tell Me a Story" and his live performance took on a slightly different direction than his recording. Adding a bit of improvisation and invoking a jam-band mentality, the music drifted along with his mood. He was barely able to squeeze in five songs over 30-minutes, giving a good indication of the vibe he conveyed. An eruption of applause from the crowd during the brief interludes indicated they were on the same wavelength.
"I'm Phillip Phillips by the way, if you don't know me. That's my name, ask me again and I'll tell you the same. I haven't played this one in awhile," he said before breaking into an extended bluesy introduction to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Effectively redefining the King of Pop's cult classic into a lively folk anthem.
"Check out the new album," Phillips stated, "if you don't like it you can forget about it." He continued with "A Fool's Dance" before closing the set with "Home." The latter began with a guitar-heavy melody, a harmonic component of "Home", as a artistic twist before launching into the now familiar song. The audience sang along, adding an exclamation to Phillips' evening.
Phillip Phillips setlist:
Tell Me a Story
Thriller (Michael Jackson cover)
A Fool's Dance