Allen Stone gets super funky at a Soul’d out Croc
Allen Stone at The Crocodile ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
I’m certain that part of the allure of soul for me is its capacity for being something that I’m just not, a personality trait that’s eluded me throughout my life: suave. The intersection of outgoing and unselfconscious, dancing like a fool and still looking cool just isn’t where I hang out. Though I’m trying. As the son of a preacher man, Allen Stone was well equipped from day one to be all of those things at once, and it all came out on stage at the Crocodile for his “A Night with Allen Stone.”
Allen Stone is a goofball in a way only a preacher’s son could be, boisterous and respectful all at once. He cultivates a thick-rimmed suave, his toothy grin comes easy and he’s very interested in making sure everyone is getting “funked up.” His overwhelming enthusiasm is just that, overwhelming, and since it’s all in service of having a good time, it consumes the room in the best way possible. He made a point of getting everyone dancing at one point early on, and with hyper demands coming from a man who in the first few songs did a fair amount of flopping around himself, you had to figure “He’s getting wacky up there, why not me too?” Not even midway though Stone’s soul set I’m standing halfway back and people are happily gyrating around me (and on me) in 360 degrees at his request. Seattle was suddenly getting unusually funky.
Opening “A Night with Allen Stone” to an early crowd was Eternal Faire and frontman Andrew Vait’s classic rock persona came out in full force. I suddenly understood why he might also be a natural in a Freddie Mercury tribute role, he was fully using the stage as a stage. I suppose if I had hair like that, I’d be swinging it around like him at every possible moment too. An opening acoustic set by Stone and a small band saw a collaborative moments with fellow musicians Alessandra Rose, Kris Orlowski, and Hot Bodies in Motion as well as a number of well done covers, Ray LaMontagne’s “Let It Be Me” and Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” were the highlights. But the acoustic set was just a warmup for where his talent is most on display. His pipes are the knockout factor. And it seems, his charisma.
Allen Stone is Maxwell’s brain locked in Steve Urkel’s body: behind four eyes, funny faces and gawky moves is a lady-killer on the hunt. His countertenor runs are just one of his weapons of choice. “Celebrate Tonight” dutifully rips a page right out of Stevie Wonder’s volumes of work. Minor classic “Figure It Out” is probably the best representation of Stone’s preference not for dwelling on break-ups but on the far more difficult topic of staying together that Gaye set the bar so high for. (See also “Another Break Up Song”.) And watching Stone strut on stage, it’s apparent that his break-out living room video for “Unaware” only hinted at his vocal potential. His vocal run about two thirds of the way through that song live caused tangible chills. Of all the songs this night though, the unreleased participatory cut “Say So” most lived up to the funky precedent Raphael Saadiq been setting in recent years, a dance n’ chant anthem that should get even the most skeptical show-goer shuffling ten toes in time.
Though Seattle might seem like an unusual place for R&B star to be birthed, this night at the Crocodile proved we’re not just ready for it, but hungry for it. For the soulful swagger of those Hot Bodies boys. For the happy-go-lucky jump-alongs of Pickwick. And yes, for the exploding energy of Allen Stone and his band. It’s music that rubs off on you. And let me tell you, I could certainly use a dose of Stone’s suave rubbing off on me. To be honest, I could use a whole lot more than one dose.
Allen Stone’s next plays Seattle at Bumbershoot, Sunday September 4th, 7.30pm at the EMP stage.
Eternal Fair ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
Allen Stone ::: photo by Josh Lovseth