Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lone Bellow Live

The Lone Bellow
Wow!  We saw The Lone Bellow in concert at the 20th Century in Oakley and their sound is as pure and grand in a hall as it is recorded.  Although louder live (there’s no volume control, after all), their intensity remains the same.  This integrity rarely carries over for most groups – country sounds like rock live, rock sounds like heavy metal, heavy metal sounds like a monster truck rally.  We’ve reviewed their latest album Then Came The Morning, but hadn’t heard their earlier The Lone Bellow (2013).  The best place we heard them was on the main floor of the venue, rather than the balcony because the sound was distorted and the lighting threw the performers into garish shadows.

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams and Kanene Donehey Pipkin
     The group is basically a trio of Zach Williams as principal front man and acoustic guitarist, Brian Elmquist on electric guitar, and Kanene Donehey Pipkin on mandolin and bass.  Though Williams handles most of the lead singing, they also trade off on some songs.  Their first album focused more on acoustic and some alt-country arrangements, which Elmquist handles with sincerity and grace, while Pipkin displays a powerhouse keening quality on those with a Celtic feel about them.  However, Williams has the star voice because it’s big, impassioned, and has that nasal note redolent of contemporary groups.  The blend of styles results in alchemy.  They may be the closest group we have today to The Band in the late ‘60s.  They marry country, alternative rock, and roots into a complex sound that’s inimitable; Alabama Shakes creates a similar idiosyncratic stew from blues, psychedelic rock, and jazz.

After the Show
       The Lone Bellow performed an almost two hour set after Anderson East, which was a good, though chameleonic, cover band and an earlier singer opened for them.  They brought Anderson East on stage for the final encore, which was a loose, wondrous take on Prince’s “Purple Rain” (they’d toyed with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” a half hour earlier).  They and East were charming, though tired, while greeting fans after the show.  Thanks to the forward thinking WNKU as a major sponsor of the show, but must the yakky guy with the signed guitar show up at every show and hog the artists’ attention when they’re trying to connect with their fans?

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