A small and dimly lit stage, with a tall, brown-haired girl and three men sitting on wooden stools casually strumming away on their respective guitars; countless hands raised from the crowd, like a forest full of trees, each holding a camera or smartphone as motionlessly as physically possible. For about two hours.
These were my dull expectations for Francesca Battistelli’s “Hundred More Years Tour”- no anticipation could be more false. It was quite simply one of the most excellent and down-to-earth shows I had seen in a long time. I was blown away by not only the Fran and her crew, but also The Afters, as well as two up-and-coming artists we support at SJD: Kyle Sherman and Love And The Outcome.
Texas native Kyle Sherman was the first to perform. Although bright lights and crowd-touching weren’t included in his short set, his passionate voice and soft acoustic strums lulled the audience into the intimate atmosphere of the event- I felt as if I had entered a world where none of my cares or worries mattered anymore. Kyle’s homely personality and relatable lyrics proved to be an appealing invite for the audience to sing along, despite many of them never hearing the artist’s music prior to that night. It was a fantastic experience.
Shortly after Sherman stepped down, the audience was introduced to pop duo Jodi King and her husband Chris- Love And The Outcome, hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. Even before the young couple belted out their first tune, my eyes and ears were fixed on the both of them- Chris wielded a guitar, while his bride played keys and a drum simultaneously (one with each hand, much to the audience’s delight). Jodi had previously been a solo artist, and humorously told the story of how she and her husband met through music. The duo continued to play in an escalating vibe, as if each song was building up to the next in a mesmerizing swell, getting the audience off their chairs and into the moment.
The end of L&TO’s act felt like a musical cliffhanger- as if the audience was left on the edge of their seat. They were quickly picked up with an energetic spectacle by The Afters, who captured the audience with the catchy “Never Going Back To Okay”. The atmosphere immediately shifted into an upbeat rock fest, as the stage lights flashed and panned like strobes to the melodies of “Beautiful Love” and “Light Up The Sky”. Lead singer Josh Havens often ventured out into the mass of fans, grabbing hands and towering over the crowd. Though the real treat was hearing the band introduce the people to new music from their brand-new record, Life Is Beautiful. The freeway-worthy jingle “Every Good Thing”, and the touching “Broken Hallelujah” were only a taste of the band’s recent work, showcased in an excellent performance.
After their final song, the Afters boys dismissed the crowd into the lobby for a short break and shopping-spree for band merch. Those fifteen minutes felt like five, as lyrics of Francesca Battistelli’s silky voice suddenly began to permeate the venue. People immediately flocked back into their seats and to the front of the stage as several umbrellas (yes, umbrellas) graced the stage, and the acclaimed young singer caroled away to the beat of “I’m Letting Go”, “This Is The Stuff”, and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”. The band’s setup was modified every few songs, ranging from the Fran sporting a Telecaster guitar, to the entire band breaking out into an unforgettable jazz symphony. A brief acoustic set showed her husband (the drummer) leading the band in a complete beat made with little more than a suitcase. Following a pause for a WorldVision video, Battistelli told of her own life experiences, and steered the crowd into a worshipful attitude with Jesus Culture’s “One Thing Remains”.
The night ended with a musical crescendo after “Free To Be Me” and “It’s Your Life”, followed by the band taking a bow; a fitting end to a spectacular show by the four artists.
I was honored to get to speak with Kyle and L&TO after their shows:
Kyle showcased his album Hear Me, a remarkable collection of thirteen acoustic rock ballads, worthy additions to any download roster. More of Kyle Sherman’s music can be heard at his website, Facebook, or Twitter pages. (http://www.kyleshermanmusic.com)
L&TO’s music will be sure to get listeners off their own chairs as well; listen to their self-titled EP and catch their shows here: http://www.loveandtheoutcome.com/.
The After’s new release, Life Is Beautiful was debuted on April 16 of this year. It can be heard via their website or iTunes: http://theafters.com.