January 17, 2012

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra at the Neptune Theater

by

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

A year before most of Seattle and its music press ever seemed to take notice, Allen Stone was already overselling his shows at small venues he’d booked himself, hitting the college circuit and making a name for himself. Though his largest Seattle booking prior to Saturday night was his June show at the Crocodile, now just six months past that, Stone was performing the first of two sold out nights with the Seattle Rock Orchestra doing his material at the 889 capacity Neptune Theater. Since the second show was precipitously added after the first sold out a month ahead of time, the room undoubtedly courted the most excited of his local fans, and the all ages crowd drew from every kind of person and a wide array of ages, though the ladies outnumbered the men in this crowd by a healthy margin. Lots of screaming and swaying women. Seattle crowds are known as notoriously staid, but not tonight.

Stone being joined by Macklemore midset felt appropriate, with echoes in the moment of Mack himself, Seattle’s biggest independent act having at this time last year sold out a total of three Showbox shows far ahead of time in a similar manner. Though Macklemore stepping on stage certainly brought its own level of excitement, Stone’s efforts to be the complete package entertainer on his own kept the night jumping from one high to the next, end to end.

Starting with a group of largely ballads from his first record Last to Speak, Stone sat on a stool and played his guitar as the SRO gave the detail of R&B elegance at its most splashy to songs his largely acoustic original album didn’t attempt. “Your Eyes” was the new and final track in the ballad set and had Stone at the end gracefully wiping away tears with his sweat, seemingly overwhelmed at the reality of this moment, that all these people were there to see him. He did warn us before hand that a few tears might be shed and to bear with him. Welcoming his own band in full to the stage he segued into a couple of crowd-pleasing covers, his live staple Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” and also Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which was major win among the ladies around me. I grew up on that Bonnie song, so me too.

At this point there was nothing left to do but to dig into the songs that have won him all these fans from his self-titled record and unleash the funk. Kicking off a second more lively set with his album opener “Sleep,” he segued seamlessly into “Celebrate Tonight” to get things warmed up, but it was the greasy dance showdown that provided the first peak of the night. The entrance side of the room did in fact slay my side of the room in the competition, and in fact slayed all sides I’ve ever seen at an Allen Stone show in the past year. They actually got greasy. It felt like a watershed moment when I expected no such thing, not in a million years in Seattle. Yet Stone made it happen through sheer force of entertainment.

Ben Haggerty’s collaboration with Stone on “Neon Cathedral” where Stone wrote a melody vocal for the still developing Macklemore rap track and the debut of it, as noted earlier, was a moment unto itself. But more than just a heavyweight collaboration, it was a public acknowledgement of one rising independent big dog from another and a tangling of the Town’s good fortunes. Soon thereafter “Satisfaction” as a closer provided another climax, but without “Unaware” having made an appearance, his prime-time jam, an encore was a given for this crowd and the buzz didn’t cease. That with Rock Orchestra and horn section in concert he then flawlessly delivers those spine-tingling high notes to provide the biggest peak to the night at the end of a long set speaks to how ready he’s been for this moment to come.

Kris Orlowski was handpicked by Stone as the acoustic nice-guy opener, and he had to contend with a restless crowd not really there for him. On the other hand to his advantage he was playing for a mostly college-oriented female crowd, which like for Stone, might be the strongest demographic target for his songs and good-looking charms. Only playing the first song alone, to rise above the noise he was joined by a parade of friends including Noah Gundersen, Dawn Mitschele, Zach Fleury, and as well for many of the songs, SRO and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis contributor Andrew Joslyn who with his fiddle helped some of these songs realize ambitions larger than just “singer-songwriter.” I have to admit, were Orlowski’s songs around in the days of Dawson Leary, the latest single “Way You Are” along with “Jessi,” “Waiting,” and “Your Move” probably would’ve all been WB jams.

Though in the soul tradition Allen Stone’s geek mystique is unmistakeably out of place and a curiosity in its own way, it is his voice and his passion that’s remarkable and sets him apart from other artists for his fans and this performance was an affirmation of that voice’s chops for those fans. Without that will to sing Stone would just be a hippie with thick glasses from a small town with “a stop light, a grocery store, and a whole lot of chewing tobacco” as he likes to say. If this weekend was any indication, his voice and big heart trumps any novelty his thick spectacles might temporarily introduce, and so this is just the beginning of what will be a huge 2012 for Stone.

 

Kris Orlowski and Noah Gundersen

Kris Orlowski and Noah Gundersen ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Macklemore and Allen Stone with the Seattle Rock Orchestra

Macklemore joining Allen Stone ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth

2 Comments

Hit us up.

  1. GG #

    Best and most accurate review of is Saturday show I have read. Great job, and excellent take.

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