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All Smiles at George Ezra’s House of Blues Boston Show

It’s Sunday, April 22nd and I’m driving up the Mass Pike listening to George Ezra’s new album, Staying at Tamara’s. I’d just finished playing my first living room show in West Boylston, and found myself with less time than initially planned to get to Ezra’s concert at the House of Blues in Boston. As I’m racing up the Pike, I’m wondering how attending my first concert as a journalist will go. Six songs and thirty minutes later I find free street parking two blocks from the venue. Good start, I’m thinking. Let’s go do this.

I turn the corner and see a never-ending line of concertgoers. There’s a buzz about them that inspires me to approach a few after I secured my press pass. “What brings you here tonight?” I asked Kristina from Maine. “I’ve been obsessed with his music for four years now. I love his voice; it’s so deep and calming.” She and multiple others described Ezra’s sound as unique. They expressed excitement about his new album and an appreciation for the mix of upbeat songs like “Paradise” and “Shotgun” and slower, deeper songs like “Only a Human” and “The Beautiful Dream.” They couldn’t believe they were moments away from seeing them performed live.

When I entered the venue Noah Kahan had a few songs left in his opening set. From the front row a group of Kahan’s friends, family and fans led the rest of the crowd in cheering for and applauding his band’s passionate performance, driven by his raw, powerful voice. After closing with his beautifully simple pop ballad “Hurt Somebody,” Kahan and his band met fans near the merchandise table. I had just finished a great conversation with Noah when the lights dimmed and the crowd went wild.

George Ezra and his band play a mix of old and new songs to an excited Boston crowd.

George Ezra’s six-piece band excitedly took the stage and broke into the intro of “Cassy O.’” Moments later Ezra appeared, showcasing his slightly awkward yet adorable and confident dance moves as he made his way to the microphone. When he picked up his guitar, threw it around his neck and joined the rest of the band, a new energy filled the room. 

“Boston!” he addressed the crowd upon the song’s end. “Tonight we’re going to play some old songs… And tonight we’re going to play some brand new ones!” The sincere tone with which he spoke led me to believe that he might just be this personable with the audience throughout the concert, and indeed he was. Between songs, Ezra told stories that inspired his songwriting for his first and second albums. He spoke with his arms and his smile, and the audience listened intently, laughed, and appreciated his openness.

I particularly loved his story about “Budapest,” his 2014 breakout hit. He’d been travelling Europe by train with a particular plan: explore each city for two nights and then hop back on the train towards the next destination. Only once did he fall off this track, which led him to miss one city he’d planned to see: Budapest. To play further into the joke of writing a song about a city he’d never been to, Ezra explained, “Often people write love songs promising all the things they have to give, so I thought it’d be funny to write one promising all the things I definitely don’t have to give, like a house in Budapest!” This happened to be the last story of the night, as Ezra ended his three-song encore with “Budapest.”

Ezra tells a story to an engaged audience at the House of Blues.

After the show I began approaching people again because that same buzz I’d sensed about the audience earlier was still alive. This time I asked about favorite moments of the show, and appropriately I received answers that nearly covered the whole concert. If I were counting, “Paradise,” “Shotgun,” “Hold My Girl,” and “Blame It On Me” received the most praise. Whether upbeat or slower and more emotional, Ezra and his band’s performances were undeniably captivating. His smooth and deep voice cut through the supporting guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and horns clearly. In addition to enjoying the clarity of all the instruments in the mix, I loved the band’s spontaneous, genuine, and entertaining interactions amongst themselves. Their good vibe was infectious, and spread throughout the audience all night. I saw all smiles as concertgoers stepped out of the House of Blues and back onto the streets of Boston.

 

Kate Nash Teaches Us That Yesterday Was Forever

“And in case you have any rage inside because I do, let’s face it head-on. It’ll be like group therapy!” belted Kate Nash during her show last night at the Royale in Boston. Nash is currently on her North American, Yesterday Was Forever tour. The album that the tour is named after was released on March 30th and if you have yet to listen to it, you’re missing out.

Walking into the venue, it was clear fans were ready for Nash. As I was prepping my equipment I heard one young concert-goer share, “This is the best day of my life. I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe she’s going on soon, I can’t believe this entire night is happening!”

It’s no surprise her music has had such an impact on so many lives. She’s got songs discussing mental health, songs talking about feminism, and songs about being yourself. Whether you’re old and grey or young and naïve, one of her songs will have a message you can personally relate to. Don’t believe me? The audience distribution last night was filled with people of all ages. I watched a married couple dance together in the back and some twenty-something girls belt the lyrics to “Merry Happy”. Regardless of the large spread in ages, everyone was having a wild time.

The opener, Miya Folick, started things off with a bang. Her vocals were a nice mix of smooth/jazzy and gritty hard rock. She commanded with some killer moves and guitar playing. Her band was equally amped up and left the audience buzzing after their set. As I sat talking with one girl after the set she mentioned, “Miya totally gave me that vibe of the character Julia Stiles plays in 10 Things I Hate About You. You know? With the whole feminist rocker vibe.”

Her song “Dead Body” discusses someone’s refusal to be silent after experiencing sexual assault. It’s a song with a powerful message and skillfully crafted lyrics like, “It’s my sunny disposition that you liked / You poured me coke and vodka / Drink it baby, be nice / And you knew you would get away / So you didn’t try to hide.” Although a dark song, Miya deserves massive applause for using her platform to discuss issues that plague many people.

After leaving the stage it was Nash’s turn to engage the audience. She bounced on full of energy in sparkly fishnet stockings and an oversized green Bruins jersey. Nash spent the entire concert jumping from each side of the stage, making sure to interact with everyone. Her band was vibing, there were smiles all around. Much like Miya, Nash also uses her platform to discuss important issues. Before her performance of Musical Theatre, a song about mental health, she took the time to share “there’s no shame when you put a sling on a broken arm, so why is there shame when there’s a broken mind?” It provided deep insight into society’s mental health misconceptions and left the audience cheering.

As far as repertoire goes, Nash made sure to include classics like “Agenda” but also put emphasis on her newer content. Her energy persisted throughout the entire show and I left amped up with less of a voice than I had at the beginning of the night. All in all, it was a fantastic show and I would highly suggest purchasing tickets if given the chance.

 

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Why Don’t We: The New Teen Heart Throbs

First off, it needs to be acknowledged that Why Don’t We managed to sell out a show on the same night as a Red Sox game against the New York Yankees. This is a massive feat as the House of Blues in Boston is right across from Fenway Park, Boston is first and foremost a sporting city, and the Yankees are a major Red Sox rival. Nevertheless, they did it!

 

Entering the House of Blues, I was shocked to see that the audience was made up of strictly teenage girls. When I say strictly teenage girls, I mean that throughout the entire venue at a sold-out show I saw maybe thirty individuals above the age of twenty. Furthermore, all the individuals of adult age were parents of the teenagers. They spent the night on the side near the bar or in the back, sitting on the floor. They were there because their daughters had dragged them to see Zach Herron, Jonah Marais, Jack Avery, Daniel Seavey, and Corbyn Besson. This just goes to show you that not all heroes wear capes. I and the other photographers present in the pit could not stop discussing how we wished our parents had loved us enough to take us to a concert they themselves has little interest in seeing. This was also a bittersweet moment because at twenty years old, I realized as I looked out at the crowd that I was no longer a child.

In short, Why Don’t We has mastered the two most crucial things that allow musicians to make it big. They’ve developed a strong following and an incredibly specific target audience. This became evident before the opener, EBEN, walked on stage. Although no music was playing, the entire audience began singing the entirety of Why Don’t We’s single, “Trust Fund Baby”.

On the topic of the opener, man was he good. Most artists try to develop complex lighting patterns for their shows. EBEN kept it simple with plain white lights and strobes. This meant it was easy to capture amazing shots of him as he commanded the stage. It also meant the crowd was easily able to focus on him as an artist and his performance. He kept the crowd entertained, with killer dance moves and solid vocals. His song, “LAMBO”, was comical as it discussed not having money and wanting it. It was something pretty much any college kid could relate to. Additionally, after listening to the released version, I have to say his version performed live was much better than the recorded track. To sum up EBEN, he’s an electric performer who’s sure to improve his trade as he gains experience and practice.

After twenty minutes of waiting, Why Don’t We took the stage. I was incredibly glad to have brought my earplugs because the cheers from the crowd were deafening. I’ve been to countless concerts and never have I been so nervous about the preservation of my eardrums. Their entrance was very well planned with the lights flashing the outline of each member’s profile. However, once the show really started I felt as though the occasional strobe lights that flashed went overboard as they were at eye level with anyone in the front, aka the photographers and first few rows of fans. It was slightly distracting. However, their vocals and flow of their set were spectacular. There was a nice mixture of upbeat songs and ballads. From what I could tell, no one missed a note. Additionally, the costume changes were well planned. The audience of ladies couldn’t contain themselves when the five members walked on stage in suits. The only other criticism I had for Why Don’t We’s performance was the choreography.

It seemed over choreographed. Every second of every song seemed to have a beat. Don’t get me wrong! This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s far better than artists who stand and sing without doing much of anything. My only wish was that there had been more opportunities for organic movement. I took time to research the group before attending their concert to ensure that I understood their vibe. These guys are hilarious and full of energy. I felt as though the choreography caused things to fall a little flat during a few moments in songs. Choreography makes things tricky (especially when it’s group choreography) because it requires a lot of thought in order to complete the movements in sync. The excessive choreography resulted in moments where the boys appeared to be too focused on remembering the moves rather than feeling the music. Again, don’t take this to mean that they were insincere. From the songs where the movements were less complicated you could tell that they resonated with their music and the messages it was sending. It was witnessing those moments that made me wish that the choreography played a less important role in their set.

To conclude, Why Don’t We and EBEN provided fans with a lovely night of music. From the special night they created, it’s clear that they value their fans and care about giving them a night they’ll never forget. As far as artists go, I’m incredibly interested to watch Why Don’t We grow as a group and can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the future.

For the full gallery of photos click here